How to renew traditional journalistic skills to have impact in this digital era

Full of admiration I looked up to the beautiful interactive productions of news companies like The Guardian, New York Times and the BBC. That’s how I wanted to tell my stories. Inspired by all these productions from short video to infographic or documentary I wondered: what will actually really work? Do we only make these special productions because we, journalists, want to make them? Does it really add value to the lives of people who will consume these stories? And that’s when I discovered a hack.

A journalistic golden oldie helps me find the clear answers I need.  Before I make any story I always ask myself: Who, what, where, when, why and how. Only to check if I have all the information. So what if I ask these questions again, but this time with my audience in mind? It made me find the angles that provided them the context they needed. That means: they read my article, talked about it and it actually made a difference in their lives and the way they looked at society.

If they don’t read it, why make it?

Why did you became a journalist? For me it all began with people. I wanted to tell the stories of all those who couldn’t. My believe was that the world needs to know those stories. I wanted to have an impact on society, because a story is an experience and we can learn from the experiences of others. Strange, that in all those years I didn’t thought about the wishes of the people who read my stories. Not even for a minute. Did I really make an impact? Is providing objective information enough, will it help my readers use it. Their story, became my story.

Write a review of 300 words, an article of 250 words, a video of 3 minutes, a documentary of 60 minutes. We know how it works, we know the ‘grammar’ of all these formats intuitively like we speak our native tongue without thinking about it. With the arrival of the internet, new formats emerged. Formats that look exciting, but we don’t know the exact effect or ‘grammar’ yet. Podcasts, webdocs, infographics and the addition of interactivity. What do they achieve for your reader as a new way of storytelling? What value do these formats have for our reporting? How are they experienced?

In search of the new rules

Like we did with all the traditional formats in journalism, we want to make rules for new formats. What if we take a look at other disciplines, like design thinking. What is the first thing they think of when creating new formats? The behavior of their audience and why they behave the way they do.

“Design thinking is essentially about the empathic ability to think about another person’s situation before using your own expertise. Finding the right ‘fit’ for your design, format or product largely depends on  trying to understand your potential user.”  

Nienke Huitenga, co-founder Hackastory.

Journalist, pay attention and be proud because this is your chance to hack digital innovation in your newsroom as of tomorrow! Change the way you do editorial meetings with this simple hack.be more than  a hard working journalist. How? you may wonder. For me, the solution was close at hand. my DNA and iIt’s in the DNA of every journalist: 5 times W and the H.

Who is my audience? Who do I reach with this story? Knowing for whom you are making your story can help you determine the perspective or even make the choice if the subject fits your target audience.

What does my audience want? What do they want to know? Know what interests them. It can also help you finding the right angle to make them interested in a topic they originally think they don’t care about.

Where will they consume this story?Choosing the right format also knows, knowing where people will read, hear or watch your story. If they’re reading stuff while sitting in the train, subtitles are preferred probably.

When will they consume this story? If they consume your story while waiting or commuting they don’t have long. So make it short. If they consume when they get home and waiting for dinner they maybe have longer.

Why do they want to consume this story? Make them care. Give them the context that is relevant to them. What does this mean for my situation? is a common question.

How will they consume this story? Do they use mobile or desktop? Thinking about their way of consuming helps you find the right fit in format.

Tyler The Creator Answers GIF by #ActionAliens - Find & Share on GIPHY

Find the answers to all those questions, that are now recurring thoughts, and you will notice that you know better which format to choose for your story and which platform will enhance your story to actually make an impact. Experiment with it, and let us know what you discover that’s changing in your editorial strategy. Mail us directly: tothemoon@hackastory.com

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