Fishing for a Good Story

When people consider the news to be boring, what do you do as a journalist to change that? You find a good story. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Finding a good story is like fishing; you need patience. Some days are slow, and you don’t find anything. On the other hand, there will be some days where your boat is hauling, and you return to the lodge with a great story.

Finding a great story is only half the battle. It also needs to be presented effectively. Otherwise, the audience will not listen. One example of a good news story is BBC’s Emmy “Inside the North Korea Bubble”. This feature story contained fantastic images (emotions of the people), great transitions (car rides, buildings that prohibited filming), and oblique references (Kim Jong Il paintings, Sunday, Great Leader’s Birthday). BBC presented the story in a way that was visually appealing, and shown in a logical order that made it easier to follow. In addition, Sue Lloyd-Roberts and her crew exposed some of North Korea’s lies, which allowed Lloyd-Roberts to pose a strong question at the end. For example, North Korea claims that they are self-sufficient, yet the lone tractor at the mechanized farm contained a European Union logo, and the market BBC was not allowed to film in had items made in China. Then, in the end, she asks the audience, “How could they expect us to believe that this was not surreal?”

Some people may question why is this a good story if the sources just presented the script they were given? Well, in a way, the story presented itself. BBC understood that this might happen since North Korea usually does not allow media coverage from other countries. Despite that, BBC still achieved their goal and found a story to tell. They showed the man’s reaction when asked if they could visit a city that did not look “neat” or “organized”. Hence the title, “Inside the North Korea Bubble”.

Nobody Likes a Phony

Have you ever watched a reality show where the first season was really good, but by the time the third season rolls around, you have lost interest because everything seems fake? When I think of that question, Cheaters comes to mind. There are many shows on television that are that way, and the audience is no longer entertained when everything seems “staged” or “set-up”. What happens? Viewers change the channel and scan the guide for something else to watch.

This happens in journalism as well. In the book The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel said, “Journalists should not deceive (the viewer).” Al Tompkins wrote on Poynter.org, “Do Not Add,” as one of his standards. Basically, do not put anything in that does not belong. Let’s examine two different magazines and their approaches to photojournalism.

Classic Weekly World News Photo courtesy of: Weekly World News and Concurring Opinions

First up, The Weekly World News. Admit it, while waiting in line to pay for your groceries, this magazine grabbed your attention. Whether it was a picture of Bigfoot or George W. Bush shaking hands with an alien, the ridiculous cover always stood out. However, I had never seen anyone taking home a copy. Maybe if Weekly World News put more effort into their effects ( “just photo-shopping” in an alien, the Loch Ness Monster, etc.), then they may have sold more subscriptions. In journalism, you need an image that would be “eye-catching” and appealing, but also accurate. Otherwise, not many people will give you the time of day.

Then, there is Time Magazine. Many times they have played around with special effects to enhance the cover image. The most famous example is the cover where OJ Simpson’s mugshot is darkened and the blood-red letters read, “An American Tragedy”. Magazines need to be careful sometimes when experimenting with effects because in some cases they can manipulate the readers. Sometimes, effects can create a bias. Unlike Weekly World News, Time sells more subscriptions because their stories are true. They say a still image can viscerally communicate emotion.

Great Cover. Image courtesy of: Time Magazine and Flickr

In my opinion, Times accomplished that with the cover of their issue from April 3, 2006. It was a picture of a polar bear standing on a tiny piece of ice, and the headline reads, “Be worried. Be very worried.” This image represents the goals of photojournalism. The cover tells a story, provides an accurate description, and viscerally communicates emotion by allowing the readers to sense that the polar bear feels stumped and trapped out on the ocean.

Blogging about Blogging

Last year, I was writing about writing. This year, I am blogging about blogging. In my opinion, blogging is more entertaining. Why? Well, in blogging, the writer has a little more freedom.

When you are in an English class, most of the time you will be assigned a topic to write on. In blogging, you can write/type about anything you want and whenever you want, as long as it is your own personal blog. For me, it was sports. Before I came to the University of Missouri, I did not have a blog. However, that all changed when I joined the Mizzou Sportswriting Promotion Association.

Carl Edwards' Insane Wreck
One reason why I like NASCAR. Photo taken by: Jerry Markland and Getty Images

If you noticed the header on my blog site, then you can guess that I like to write about NASCAR. The crashes were what drew me to the sport. As you may know, NASCAR does not exactly make the best first impression, and many people just see cars going around in a circle and “making another left turn!” However, contrary to popular belief, some of the races are actually exciting every lap. When I was writing about NASCAR, I had to find a way to make the articles appealing to readers. Thanks to technology, you can now spice up your articles. Websites such as WordPress, allow you to insert photos and videos. Another thing you can do is make the article interactive for the reader. This can be achieved by adding a poll, and/or publicizing it to Facebook or Twitter.

Blogging is a win-win situation. As the writer, you get to express yourself.  You can write about anything you want. When I say anything, I mean anything. Today, I saw a blog titled “The Skunk Hunt” from the author City Girl Goin’ Country. In addition, technology allows you to experiment with backgrounds, and add media to enhance your article. On the other hand, the reader is happy as well. They get their pictures, their videos, and their freedom of speech, as social media provides them the ability to comment on the article. Blogging is the future of writing.