Jack Lail: Just tell the story.
He’s right, of course. Story telling and story listening is part of the human experience. It’s a key reason we survived the campfire age to build Rome, sail the Atlantic and fly to the moon. In other words, story telling is a survival instinct and how we convey knowledge. It’s how we learn about the world around us and all its dangers and possibilities.
Just tell the story.
But story implies beginning middle and end, and not everything that will engage a person’s interest is so easily classified. However, if you tell us about people, you’ll get our interest. That’s what local journalism is all about. So, tell people stories. Give us something revealing about people. You can do that in three paragraphs or 30 seconds as well as 12 inches or 30 minutes. I mean, you don’t need a big production to tell us something. A lot of journalists get hung up on the unlimited space of the web and think they can write longer, stream longer or just throw up gobs of documents. But the true beauty of the web is that you are no longer constrained by the need to fill a certain number of inches or a certain number of minutes. You can stop telling us the story when the story is over. You cut the crap and cut the filler. Besides, on the web, where attention spans are short, shorter is better. Just tell us something interesting about people, but don’t try to make the story something it’s not.