Teaching Storytelling

Practical, one-week training with master students from "International Media Studies" (DW-Akademie), using Soundslides.

How do you train young journalists to use simple tools for better storytelling?

This is a bit more complicated and demanding than it sounds, as the combination of a good story with audio, photos and presentation on the web is a process that needs a fresh mind and good coordination. Aron Pilhofer once likened the process to "cooking a good meal".

Since early 2010 I am doing this for DW-Akademie. They have started a new Master in "International Media Studies".

Together with two colleagues we do a one week practical training in storytelling with students from all over the world. Besides showing examples of cool websites and providing models for online-writing, better photos, how to record audio, we use the tool Soundslides.
Additionally all students set-up a blog, often for the first time.

In late 2010 I wrote a 50+ page syllabus to provide a structured approach for this training. With the first group we started a website to present the results, that is now regularly updated by DW-Akademie. Check it out.

Some of the stories the students have created are really good, just to make you curious again watch this story, then this one and this one. Or even better: Just watch all of them.  

The progress that is made in that one week is often amazing, breaking down complex issues into something people can relate to. All students so far have delivered their pieces. 

My own learning
When you teach, you always learn something, too. Here is what I took away so far from multimedia training for journalists:

  • Soundslide is just great. It does not get in the way and provides a nice rhythm to the final pieces, often the use of still photos is even better than video
  • Even if you as a journalist want to use video, start with Soundslides first. Do one, two, three, five or eight - and by focusing on the structure of storytelling your pieces will get stronger. 
  • It not very difficult to create good stories, but coordination is very important. Not sticking to basic rules and not being organized results in long hours and unconvincing outcomes. 
  • Many journalists are trained to do a certain style of reporting. This sometimes gets in the way of accepting new, sometimes even better ways to tell a good story. 
If you are interested in Multimedia-Journalism and storytelling, two good places to go are Mediastorm (for world-class examples) and Mindy McAdams (for learning).