Events don’t happen on 24-hour news cycles, and the most important of those events can’t be captured in 2,000-word stories. But that’s how we publish, because that’s how newspapers and daily broadcasts are designed. Topics that impact our lives have winding histories, key players over time, topical shifts that are important to understanding the whole story. They don’t really start over every day with a new angle, as we’d force readers to believe. We’re limiting the opportunity for our readers to understand all the intersecting impacts by reducing that important context into a few paragraphs of background on each new development we write about.
Read the full piece at Nieman Journalism Lab
The shortsightednesss of journalists framing their stories in ways that fit their platforms more than their audiences should not be ignored. However, those who argue an end to narrative and episodic storytelling and news reporting risk the same simplistic mistake.
The Internet and 24/7 mobile/social media have indeed removed the longstanding basis for day/night-cycle news production. However, they have not fundamentally changed the way the human brain works or how people organize their lives or the information that is part of their lives. The “story” is a rather basic element of how people think. So the challenge is not to do away with narrative but to make it more effective with the new technologies and techniques available to us.
Take a look, for example, at this piece from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School that looks at the key element of episodic stories — the returnable element:
“Dickens understood, and deftly exploited, the crucial Returnable Element of serialised stories; the embedding in a long story the element that brings the reader back over and over. The Returnable Element may vary enormously between different stories but without it episodic narratives die.
To address the powerful attraction to episodic screen stories we need recognise and articulate both the returnable element and the episodic pattern structure that enables and empowers the returnable element.”