Journalism skills / Writing skills

How to tell a story: it’s not just about words.

Greetings from the train (again). Greetings from a very busy train – so much so that I can’t stick my elbows out too much and currently have them closely stuck to my sides. Makes for an ever comfortable journey home as you can imagine.

open book

Every time I received an email saying I have new followers on my blog it sends that awkward sense of guilt that I haven’t posted and then I suddenly go on a massive motivational whim and think I’M GOING TO BLOG TONIGHT, RIGHT NOW, ON THE TRAIN.

Having now worked for two publications, still in the early stages of my career, I’m starting to learn more about what a modern day journalist needs. Many aspiring journos will start out as editorial assistants, and the tasks and workload of these can really range depending on where you’re working. Starting on quite a small magazine, it was a fantastic learning curve for me to take on a variety of tasks (writing, social media, email newsletters, comps, etc), and yet still be learning new things every day.

I was reluctant to call myself a journalist then, though. I was writing some features, and I was contacting people and getting case studies, but on a very basic level. Now – I feel very different. I write a lot more and I’m always looking for new stories and angle ideas and yet the main thing I’ve learned in the past month is that writing isn’t the be all and end all of being a journalist.

You’d think I probably knew this already right, seeing as I studied Multimedia Journalism for my NCTJ. The thing is, I was completely aware that having video skills, audio, and image editing skills was great to have on your CV as a journalist, but I didn’t realise how integral they would be.

My actual job role is a Multimedia Journalist, so incorporating all sorts of mediums to tell a story is the core of what that means really. Writing is my comfort zone – it’s easy for me, it’s a ‘safe’ option and so thinking outside the box and generating different ways to tell a story is a new challenge for me. A good one. Albeit quite frustrating when my skills aren’t up to scratch (I’m learning).

The editorial team is made up of an editor, writer, social media writer, graphic designer and video producer. That in itself shows how telling a story isn’t just about words – because every person on our team is there to tell a story, it’s just a case of choosing a medium to do it.

If you get sent a press release with a shit load of statistics in it, regurgitating these with words is boring and no one wants to read it and no one will probably pay attention, either. If you pick out the most important stats relevant to your audience, turn it into an infographic (I made one and it was pretty ace), and make the numbers stand out – that’s when people will pay attention. Similarly if you’re wanted to capture a case study of someone, it can be much more powerful over video, or through audio. All these things are new things I’m learning, and I’m still trying to get to that point what when an idea comes into my head, I need to go through the sorting process of ‘What’s the best way to tell this story?’

And it’s not always through words.


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