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OMG, storytelling in journalism is changing. What to read abot this?
January 24, 2013 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Here's an European writing a book/thesis about storytelling in journalism. What texts (linguistics, literary theory etc – preferably *not* mass communication theory) might help in analysing contemporary changes in that field?

Being a journo, I've read many "expert" books on contemporary sotyrelling (several by Jack Hart; New New Journalism by Robert Boynton etc).

These are very good "functionalist"/how-to-books. However, after reading some basic Lakoff and David Shields' excellent Reality Hunger, I feel like challenging the traditional western storytelling "paradigm". First: Lakoff's ideas explain remarkably well why "objectivity" doesnt work (neither in journalism nor elsewhere). Second: What if Shields is right and the traditional, carefully structured and, as one might define, kind of "linear" journalistic storytelling really doesn't manage to reflect today's world all that well? (New Journalism is 60 years old, after all – and it emerged in a similar situation where old journalistic methods didn't seem to work any more.)

Furthermore, Errol Morris once pointed how some contemporary documentary film makers are simultaneously telling a story and "commenting" on how it is being told (in other words, they're showing how even "true stories" are always the author's constructions). Alternative theatre directors sometimes talk about "being tired of having to have a story". Etc, etc. The way I see it, something – some kind of shift – definitely is going on.

So. My book will focus on story structure, style, objectivity vs subjectivity and the writer's position towards the text. What's going on there? If something really is changing, then whose ideas and theories might help to map out and analyse these changes? Anything that would give me a wider, more philosophical or even "scientific" (howdy, cognitive linguists!) perspective on what contemporary (journalistic) stories are, how they are composed and understood?

(In other words, uh, I don't know – is there any "hard science" being done on storytelling already?)

Any links to books, scholarly articles and good essays are warmly welcomed. bonus points for suggesting Europe-centric ideas and thinkers.

Thanks very much!
posted by earthwormsleg to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmm, you've hit most of the highlights already in the field, I think.... I mean you can read the Clay Shirky books and papers, and there's been a couple other related Internet books last year, but they're sort of... hmm, they're kind of willful projection, I feel like. The other "big books" on the topic of journalism etc. arrive on publication day all fairly dated already.

I've met with 3 or 4 people writing their Masters thesis or doctorate on this topic in the last couple months alone; can you do a literature crawl for theses over the past five years or so? I think Columbia's thesis papers are all available through Columbia, and that's probably similar elsewhere. There at least you'll get little bits of hard science, and less theory.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:36 AM on January 24, 2013


Thanks for these tips, especially for a reminder on the existence of Clay Shirky. Columbia's thesis papers are a good idea, though, as said, I'm more interested in non-media scholars and thinkers at the moment. I would like to build a more interdisciplinary view on these questions. But, again, thanks for thinking along!
posted by earthwormsleg at 1:36 AM on January 27, 2013


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