“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
– Joan Didion
Welcome to Narrative Journalism! While this genre/craft/form of art goes by many names (i.e. Creative Nonfiction, Narrative Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction, New Journalism, etc.), narrative journalism is most simply defined as the following: storytelling (narrative) through the use of and research (journalism). Narrative journalism is ALWAYS concerned with nonfiction writing (true stories!), but what sets narrative journalism apart from say, history or news journalism, is that narrative journalism is hyper-focused on the craft of the story, often relying on literary techniques more often found in fiction writing. As a framework, these literary techniques will be explored through the five elements of fiction: theme, character, setting, plot, and point of view.
This textbook is largely organized around these five elements of fiction, though the first couple of chapters are concerned with foundational journalism concepts, including Ethics (Chapter 1) and Research (Chapter 2). Following these chapters on journalism basics, we then delve into what uniquely defines narrative journalism from other forms of journalism. Not only do the elements of fiction create some structure for the textbook, but we will also work through and explore a sequence of projects that engages with these various elements in creative and informative ways.
One of the most useful aspects of this text is the abundance of student examples featured within, examples that showcase the different projects and elements of fiction through inventive and instructive ways. I’ve added commentary throughout each example to supplement the more explicit instruction found in each chapter.
As we set off on this journey into the world of narrative journalism and just how we integrate literary techniques into our journalistic endeavors, there are a few key terms of be mindful of as they will be referred to regularly throughout the text:
Primary research is any research that you, the journalist, collects through first-hand experience (i.e. interviews, surveys, experiments, personal observations, etc.)
Secondary research is any research that someone else has collected first-hand (or second-hand) and that you access through libraries, databases, archives, etc.
Angle refers to the author’s perspective on the story subject (i.e. what, specifically, the author is trying to communicate).
Scope refers to the ‘narrative’ scope of an article (i.e. how much narrative coverage (scene/dialogue/etc.) is included in an article).