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Screw the story

Every time I read Angela or any other video blogger talk about “telling visual stories” or being “narrative,” I recoil.

Screw the story.
Show me something interesting.

It takes a damn lot of talent to tell a good story, and to really make a story sing, you’ve got to get into that whole production value thing, which as we know, has damn little ROI on the web.

With video, show me something interesting and check your storytelling at the door | Howard Owens

This is why I like reading Howard Owen’s blog. He can be as prickly and provocative as a thistle in  your hiking shorts, but generally does it  to goad us off well worn paths and on to somewhere more interesting – or at least somewhere we’ll be forced to think our way back from if we want to return to that old path.
But, while there’s a strong point to be made about knowing the difference between your reach and your grasp when it comes to shooting video, (and adjusting your aim accordingly), I think he’s unwise to advocate such a complete abandonment of narrative in favour of this horribly ill-defined concept of "interesting"
Absolutely we should never forget one of our prime purposes as journalists is to witness – to observe and report. Posting video of a grassfire or flood or tornado damage should be the thing we nail every time we have the chance, and you don’t need to worry about "story" there. In this case "show me something interesting" means show me something I would have stopped and watched a while (and then told people about) had I been there at the time. Witness it for me.
But that’s an awfully small room to live in.
Some stories need to be told in a narrative, they cry and scream for it and when you can answer that call and deliver the story with honesty and power you can move people deeply – to action, to tears, to feeling.
The key is a combination of training, trust (i.e. give talent it’s head) and time.
Howard may be right -that the return on investment for online news video is too small to give talent the time and training, but no smaller than the ROI on 12 part investigative or narrative print pieces. We do those things because the return is not strictly financial (we get repaid in a renewal of trust, the spending of time, and the burnishing of our reputation among readers). We tell those stories because that’s what some of us – most of us – signed on for.
Bill


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