6 Setting

“I think of the setting as a horizontal plane and the individual as a vertical plane. The line created by their intersection—there lies the story.” 

– Tom Wolfe

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives for this chapter are as follows:

  • To further explore narrative journalism through the element of fiction, setting, and the place-profile.
  • To better understand the function of setting and its impact as a literary device in immersive storytelling.

Place-based journalism, or place profiles, shares similarities with the character profile. One of the big differences is the number and the prominence of the featured characters. Whereas a character profile is driven by a single (or perhaps a few) character(s), a place profile explores the issues of a place, and the people who are involved in a place, and so this follows a more traditional, longer piece of narrative journalism that relies on more immersive reporting and involves a variety of people and places.

For beginning narrative journalists, a piece of place-based journalism achieves two things: first, it allows a journalist to immerse themselves in “place,” and, as described earlier, primary research is a crucial skill to develop. Second, place is grounding, and this allows the story to emerge from a place, as there are infinite opportunities for storytelling in every single place. All that being said, looking at a few examples might help to solidify the form while inspiring ideas for future pieces of place-based journalism.

Let’s take a look a few student examples to help us better understand how ‘place’ functions within narrative journalism and the ways in which these student journalists approach their topics:

Place Profile:

Example 1

By: Allen Dillard

Allen’s entire mini documentary revolves around a place known as the WIG. Through this focus on place, we get to meet the people involved in its development and the ways in which it has impacted the skating community and the surrounding neighborhood. The anchor of the entire piece is, of course, the place, and this allows Allen to fully immerse us in place, in this case, through visual imagery.

The next student example takes a different approach, not only in content and tone, but in presentation.

Matt weaves together personal narrative, interviews, scientific studies, audio clips, sound effects, and more to create a very dynamic podcast about video game addiction. Since the gaming world is virtual, this piece of place-based journalism does not have a concrete geographical location like the previous example, and yet, there is a culture and community that unites the characters within the story and those impacted by the story subject. Though the use of first person narration, along with the detailed interviews and audio clips, we feel completely immersed in ‘place’ and in ’story,’ while Matt takes us through the highs and lows of video game addiction.




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Introduction to Narrative Journalism Copyright © 2021 by Benjamin Wielechowski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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