To Not Storytell Deprives ...


storytelling to help understanding

If you’re a communicator or care about communications, the Nieman Journalism Lab should be on your radar.

The media property does a terrific job of probing journalism from all directions.

A Friday article, Covering a Crisis More Like Molasses than Quicksand, that looks at the challenges for journalists in covering a “never-ending” crisis caught my attention.

Think BP in the Gulf.

A crisis without an end is a story without an end.

And a story without an end isn’t really a story.

OK, just wanted to show my college philosophy class on Nietzsche and existentialism wasn’t a waste.

The point is, deeper in the post Andrea Pitzer, editor of sister site Nieman Storyboard, offers a perspective on storytelling with relevance to all types of communications:

… simple storytelling — the ancient art of weaving together characters and plots and excitement — can be crucial … Narrative is really how people understand public crisis.

Pitzer goes on to say:

Study after study has suggested the power of story not just as an artistic product, but as a cognitive function. Narrative buys people’s attention, allows them to retain complex information longer…

And the clincher:

… if we don’t consciously weave disparate facts into a recognizable arc of action — “we are in some way denying them the ability to understand.”

What an interesting way to package the value proposition of storytelling: The absence of storytelling denies people the ability to understand information.

P.S. In preparation for the panel discussion that resulted in the covering-a-crisis post, Pitzer penned the piece, “Statistics and Storytelling: The Grudge Match.” Beyond terrific writing — “But even if we concede the existence of a buffet of empty-calorie narratives …” — it’s a thought provoking post worth saving in the storytelling file.


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