Journalists are often referred to as expert storytellers. This is because they narrate the events and circumstances of the world to us so that we may understand it better.

But many see the label of 'storyteller' as controversial for journalists because:

  • it allows reporting to stray too far away from the facts, which negatively influences its accuracy, and
  • the facts portrayed lose a sense of urgency within a story.
However, despite the belief that storytelling in journalism is at odds with truth and objectivity, it still has an important place in the world of media. 

media update's Lara Smit is peeling the book wide open and narrating the importance of narrative journalism right here. 

Let's flip the page on narrative journalism:

Storytelling aids understanding

By writing stories, journalists are able to weave information together in a way that makes it more palatable for audiences. How so?

Well, a good way to think about it would be by likening it to a puzzle. Although not impossible, it is difficult to look at a piece of a puzzle and imagine what the image that it forms a part of may look like. This is where narrative journalists come in. 

They piece together different parts of a puzzle through a story in a way that is logical to audiences — eliminating all guesswork and allowing them to see the whole picture. And, let's be honest, it's easier to understand a full picture than parts of it. 

By reporting in this way, journalists make information more comprehensible for readers as it is contextualised and substantiated with more details. 
Furthermore, by having the information unfold logically in front of them, audiences are guided deeper into the story and can engage more with the facts. This then allows them to have a richer, fuller understanding of the news story.

Stories are more satisfying for audiences

Stories allow audiences to gaze further into the events or subjects that are being reported on. And, as creatures with a natural sense of curiosity, people feel more satisfied when they have access to more information. 

Stories feel more complete to readers than a list of facts or a few sentences addressing a topic. Therefore, to many people, a story adds value to a topic and gratifies their need to know as much as possible about it. 

Additionally, audiences feel more stimulated when news is perceived in the form of a narrative. In fact, the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience revealed in a 2011 study that different types of narration can stimulate the minds of audiences differently and that the motor cortices of the human brain can be activated more strongly just through the use of first-person narration.

So, not only are readers more satisfied by narrative journalism, but they are even more satisfied when it is delivered in the first person. How interesting is that? 

Storytelling sets journalists apart

In a digital age where everyone has access to the Internet — as well as devices that can record and capture incidents — anyone can spread news. And, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to not lose their voice in all the noise. 

However, as expert storytellers, journalists are still able to set themselves apart from the amateurs by delivering stories of a much higher quality. 

Additionally, there has been a notable shift in consumer habits that reveals that they are focusing on consuming content that has more meaning attached to it.

Storytelling allows journalists to give facts a purpose within the context of a narrative. This is because a story explains why these facts are significant to the reader and shows a motive behind communicating this information to them. Therefore, information becomes more meaningful to audiences when it is communicated in this way.

Stories breathe life into the news

When audiences are just presented with facts, it's easy for them to disassociate from the subject that these facts are about. However, a story gives a face to the facts, making news more relatable, significant and poignant to audiences. 

A story creates an experience out of information by allowing people to fully visualise the events as they are described. It also allows audiences to put themselves in the shoes of the people involved as their own experiences transpire in the narratives. 

This immerses audiences into the story, making news more accessible, tangible and real to readers — which, if you ask me, adds a lot more value to a news story than a few bullet points.

What do you think makes storytelling so important to journalism? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

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Want to learn more about what is important to journalists in a digital age? Then be sure to read our article, The importance of social media in journalism.
*Image courtesy of Canva