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What happens when the story (or window) comes crashing down

"Reporters become convinced the story line emerging from their investigation is the only one. And even the emergence of new facts or different dimensions or a broader context fails to enable them to open their minds to the possibility that the story has changed or that there may be no story at all."
--Haiman, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, page 57

I thought this chapter was particularly relevant for our investigative articles we're working on now. I can understand the impulse to want to make a story out of something that's not really a story, because that's sort of the nature of the assignment--investigative stories aren't supposed to obviously be stories on the surface, but there's something hidden or unconsidered that makes them newsworthy. But if you don't find the thing that makes them newsworthy, you can't just make it up, or pretend like it's there when it's not. Brace yourselves for another theatre analogy--it's like when we say in acting that you can't ignore anything that happens onstage; you have to be fully present in the moment. Even if something happens that's not "supposed" to happen, it ends up looking really stupid if you just pretend like it didn't happen. Take, for instance, this nightmare production of Peter Pan; when Wendy just continues with her line even though her house has been demolished, it looks ridiculous. There's no way to keep up the illusion that Peter did not just crash into the window. You have to do the same thing in newswriting! You can't just act like there's still a story even when your story comes crashing down. The only problem is when you've got a deadline and you don't think you can come up with a different story idea in time. But you still need to be truthful; perhaps the hidden part of this story is the surprising fact that there is no hidden or undiscovered aspect. Audiences love when stuff goes wrong, anyhow.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 18, 2009 9:30 AM.

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