Journalism – story-telling versus reporting

There seems to be a trend towards more story-telling and self promotion (as part of the story or via ‘opinion’) in journalism as opposed to reporting balanced bullshit-less news.

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu):

I don’t know how our journalists came to see “storytelling” as the heart of what they do, and “storyteller” as a self-description. I can think of 4-5 elements of journalism more central than “story.”

Truthtelling, grounding public conversation in fact, verification… listening.


    “In 2019, I hope to see us talk more about the implications of approaching journalism as the work of telling stories — specifically, what it means for the people in those stories.”
  • Jeff Jarvis (A medium): The Spiegel Scandal and the Seduction of Storytelling
    “In journalism, the story too often becomes a self-fulfilling creation.”
    “The real problem, of course, is that we have let our means of production determine our mission rather than the other way around (something I’ve heard Jay Rosen reflect upon often). I hear journalists say their primary role is as storytellers. No. I hear them say their task is to fill a product — a newspaper or magazine or show. No. Our job is to inform the public conversation. And now that we can hear people talking and join in with them,  I’ve updated my definition of journalism to this: to convene communities into civil, informed, and productive conversation. This means our first job is not to write but to listen to that conversation so we can find what it needs to function. Then we report. Then we write — or convene or teach or use other forms now available to us
  • Jay Rosen (PressThink): “I had just arrived in the Chicago bureau and I needed a story…”
    I stopped listening at that point, but not because he was boring. Something struck me about that phrase, “I needed a story.”
  • Jay Rosen (PressThink): Rolling Stone’s ‘A Rape on Campus.’ Notes and comment on Columbia J-school’s investigation.
    The key decision Rolling Stone made was made at the beginning: to settle on a narrative — indifference to campus rape — and then go off in search of the story that would work just right for that narrative.
Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th December 2018

    They do it for the same reason all preachers do it – to control their audience via their emotions and to bypass rational challenges.

    • Duker

       /  26th December 2018

      A good summary

    • Mother

       /  27th December 2018

      Dear Allan, I think you are confused this Christmas season. If preachers control their audience via emotionalism, they do so because their listeners participate. Spirituality is closely linked with human beings’ emotional health. Preaching has no comparison with journalism, except perhaps if you’re confused.
      Safe journalism should be devoid of emotion and opinion. Hopefully we will see a change as more people speak up about the inappropriateness of journalistic sensationalism and celebrity opinionators.
      Everybody has a story to tell. It’s irritating when journalists make their job party to their own story. Sadly, it’s misleading to many.

  2. kluelis

     /  26th December 2018

    In the end we the consumer gravitate toward those who tell “our story” “our truth”. So news out let’s have sold to target audiences. In the commercial world that has meant majority preference drove journalism and politics. Minorities were often ignored or used as the evil part of the good and evil narrative peddled by the “truth” tellers. The rise of individually driven social media will mean for the first time a wider range of “truth” tellers to the point where there may be a billion disseminaters each telling a specific “truth” to an audience of seven.

  3. Pink David

     /  26th December 2018

    Journalism die when they started teaching it in universities.

  4. Gezza

     /  26th December 2018

    I’ve learned to read an article or watch a news item and ask myself the basic questions every journalist is supposed to ask when reporting on anything:

    Why, &

    and, possibly more frequently than not these days, I often discover those questions are not all answered. They should be.

    • There is a difference between journalists and reporters, I believe; to me, a reporter tells the facts (Alf the cat fell off a roof and got stuck in a tree. He managed to free himself and escaped unhurt,) but journalists comment ( Alf the cat could have had no idea when he climbed onto the Catkin roof that he was going to make an undignified spectacle of himself. Cats who climb roofs should have better balance than Alf seemed to have.) Not a great example, but I can’t be bothered to think of one.

      The two seem to be blurred and probably always have been to some extent.

      As Kipling said

      I kept six honest serving men,
      They taught me all I knew;
      Their names are What and Where and When,
      And How and Why and Who.

  5. Two things that I frequently see on ‘news’ items that are nothing like reporting/journalism”

    Seemingly random people ‘off the street’ who may or may not have some vague connection to the story being told are quoted. This happened on 1 News last night, but I can’t remember what the story was about. It usually adds nothing to the story apart from ‘human interest’ – I guess it adds a few guaranteed viewers to the news that night.

    I wonder how they locate people people for including in these items – I have sometimes seen them asking for ‘interviewees’ on social media, but it looks like they sometimes just find anyone who happens to be handy and willing.

    This is definitely more storytelling than reporting.

    The other thing is that when people are interviewed they are often first shown walking into an office, or sitting ‘reading’ some papers or a screen, or typing on a computer. These are total setups with the interviewee co-opted to be some sort of actor, but with the same scene as many before them. I’ve been asked to do this sort of charade.

    • Duker

       /  26th December 2018

      Its padding but follows a corporate edict of the news ‘looks like the viewers’ Youll find they arent men or even older women who are vox popped but women from 18 to 48 because they are the demographic the advertisers want and thus the group the ‘news directors’ chase.
      Its all an offshot of identity news ( well established in a different filed as identity politics)
      Identity news has a large cast of young women reporters for every conceivable topic, and the ‘stories they tell’ revolve around women where possible.

      Another of my pet hates is the click bait headlines with overly agressive wording.
      Guardian opinion pages full of people who are full of widly over egged ‘declarations’

      This is typical this week
      “Why the internet has ruined Christmas shopping forever”

      Forever ? What its really about is its hard to buy a friend or a relative a physical musical album as a gift any more .Thats it! Forever.
      Guardian takes it too extremes but thye other papers follow for their columnists. News isnt news without some small event causing , panic, chaos etc . Its like the headline machine has insert ‘hyberbole here’

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  26th December 2018

        The ones I see being interviewed on the street are all ages and both sexes. And the stories are at least as likely to involve men. I don’t know which news you watch.

        The most pointless thing is surely a reporter standing on a corner that could be anywhere to report the story.

        The internet may have changed shopping forever, hardly headline news. I do a lot of my shopping online to save myself time, trouble and money. I recently revamped my spare room with as-new curtains (enough left when I shortened them to re-cover two chairs) and brand-new, good upholstery material which made two bedspreads, a large tablecloth that touches the floor at the sides , another chair cover and other things for $11. I sent away for a mat from Spotlight, $22 + post. The whole room cost less than $50. Online shopping rocks.

        How has it RUINED Christmas shopping ? The present is the same, the only difference is that you don’t have to stooge in and buy it.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  26th December 2018

          The PDT/s Christmas spirit is long gone. If it was ever there in the first place….

          I can never see why we need to see the person doing something in their kitchen or garden, which takes up time that could be used for real news.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th December 2018

    Daily non-news: some celebrity says rude things about Trump; some academic says Trump has finally crossed the line; some Democrat says Trump has committed an impeachable offence: some journalist says the White House is falling apart; some activist is outraged about something someone said; climate change is worse than we thought; everyone else is racist; the environment is collapsing.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  26th December 2018

      Tell someone who cares

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  26th December 2018

        Judging by your record you might be the most likely person here. Is there anything in that list you haven’t subscribed to?

  7. Gezza

     /  26th December 2018

    Item one on 1ewes at 6 & it was a very long item was Boxing Day shopping expected to hit record highs. This apparently was the most important thing happening in the world today.

    • It may be the most important thing in the world today for TVNZ and their advertisers.

      • The Consultant

         /  26th December 2018

        And you guys just rewarded them with eyeballs, which is all that matters to them.

        Twenty years from – ten if I’m lucky – TVNZ will be some long-forgotten “SOE” (department) that government ministers will “discover” is spending money on broadcasting to an audience that’s in the grave, at which point even Leftist ministers will shut down so the money can be spent on something else.

        Until that great day comes, this particular National Taonga will live on.

  8. The Consultant

     /  27th December 2018



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