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You are cordially invited to the Writer's Workshop to discuss narrative writing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by KVV, Feb 3, 2007.

  1. KVV

    KVV Member

    Hoping to generate some discussion and get some feedback for younger writers attempting to do narrative journalism. Come join us. It may require some time and effort, but I'm hoping it can help the writer's workshop open its doors a bit. I've posted a story that I worked on for several months, a 5-part serial narrative that ran in the Baltimore Sun. Is it worth the time and effort? Does it succeed or fail? Is it too much? What would you have done differently or better? Should newspapers still devote space to stories of this length? I thank you in advance.

  2. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    My God...
    I'm not sure I would read 5 parts if my kid was the quarterback.
    There is narrative, then there is overkill.
  3. SHOULD newspaper do this?
    Of course.
    Will they?
  4. KVV

    KVV Member

    I'm going to give this a bump, not to pimp my own stuff, but to hopefully invite a few more people to continue the discussion and follow up some of Chris' points in his most recent post, especially for those who have tried something like this or dreamed of trying something like this...

    1. How do you convince an editor to commit to something this big?

    2. How do you come up with a subject substantive enough to justify a multi-part series?

    3. Even if you attempt something like this and it fails -- and some people may feel this series did not meet its lofty goals -- is it still worth the effort?

    4. Also, is it possible to juggle something like this while doing beat work?

    5. Are people more likely to read long stories if they're written in narrative style? One of the more frequent comments I got after this story came out is that people were fine with the length because it read sort of like a paperback (which is a comment on the quality, just the style).

    Anyway, just hoping to expand on the topic of narrative writing in general, and give the Monday crew a chance to participate.
  5. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    First off,
    You better have #2 answered waaaaaay before you even think about the other answers.
    Or, you're putting the story before the headline, so to speak. I'm just not sure the appetite for these long series in newspapers unless they are thought or routine changing. (The LA Times "Altered Oceans" series comes to mind.)
    Focus group after focus group tells us shorter. This flies right in the face of that.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    You can still do a narrative story and do it in 30 inches or so and not spread it out over five days.
  7. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Re: You are cordially invited to the Writer's Workshop to discuss narrative writ

    So help me god, the best way to kill newspapers is to listen to what focus group after focus group says. We've been doing that for 10 years, and look what direction circulation's gone.
  8. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    You're wrong. We haven't been listening.
    Sorry to inform everyone, but the days of 5-part prep narratives are over.
    The industry can't support them, the consumer doesn't have the time for them.
    I wish it more complicated than that, but it's not.

    And, to think newspapers have lost circulation because of focus groups is the biggest false conclusion in the history of newspapers.
    Next time you sign onto the internet...Next time you buy something on EBay...The next time you buy something on Craigslist...Next time you invest in company stock....Next time buy something at WalMart. You are killing newspapers far more than focus groups. Time everyone takes a good, long look in that thing above the sink in the bathroom.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Buying something at WalMart kills newspapers?
  10. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Yep. It is called the "WalMart Effect." And, dying newspapers is the by-product of it...I will explain...
  11. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    The basics:
    WalMart has a very strategic advertising philosophy. They do not advertise in newspapers. They prefer direct-mail advertising. Which, per-person is more expensive than newspapers--but, that's another story.
    Now, when WalMart comes to a town, small businesses and merchants fail in the first five years. Numbers and frequency vary depending on size of the town. But, everything from grocery stores to jewelry stores die off. Merchants which traditionally advertise in newspapers. So, in is WalMart. Out is local business. Newspapers lose.

    And, this doesn't take into count the problems WalMart has on local municipalities and government. The strain they put on hospitals and emergency rooms because they offer no health insurance for 37.5 hour-per-week employees.

    The LA Times won a Pulitzer for the series three or four years ago. It's a lecture course at several university's MBA programs.
    One of the most fascinating newspaper work of the last 10 years.
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    But according to you, no one read it (no time!), so why should the LA Times have even bothered writing it?
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