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Beginning, Middle, End
The blue text pops up a definition when the mouse cursor is over the blue text.
What forms a news story?
Where did the idea of "news story" come from? Did someone come racing into the cave one day screaming, "I have news! Sit and I'll tell you a story!"
There are a lot of opinions about what makes a news story. These opinions are exercised valiantly every day. The media has incredible experts who write excellent and compelling columns and articles, deliver radio and TV news broadcasts, and create award winning news programs. They have tons of investigative, research, and reporting experience. Many attended universities with fine journalism departments. They have organizations that scrutinize every word, and try to ensure high standards. But they all have to consider one completely uncontrollable factor: the viewer in their market.
None can afford an incratic view - to do so would lose one's audience and bring the local medium to ruin. For the news media, or any reporter, to survive, it has to take a diasophic approach to news presentation. This short series takes such an approach, contributing ideas from a parallel discipline, without pretense or being presumptuous: the fickle world of storytelling.
How did the news story evolve? Understanding the development of the word "story" through history (etymology) is some help.Click this text to view the etymology of the phrase "news story."
Had people been disinterested, they would have gagged and tied the storyteller, and deserted the venue. Instead they turned a keen ear to the storyteller with news, and listened intently each time the storyteller reappeared. People want to know what happened and why. They are curious about events that could happen to them. We can deduce from the etymology of the phrase "news story," and the fact that there is an etymology, that the concept of a news story evolved as people reported (related) significant events in a brief narration, with explanations of the cause, to people with inquiring minds.
Note the words and concepts about news reporting that I feel are significant:
Inquisitiveness: Curiosity - implying something other than every day - out of the ordinary - something that can be of interest to people.
In a story, an event is cast in time, a priori (with prior cause); the event was significant and explained (relevant to people). In this context, a story is situated in time with a beginning (past, causation), a middle (current event), and an end (future implications).
Beginning, middle, end - sounds like a stuffy, over-analyzing college textbook that overstates the obvious. Beginning, middle, end - big deal? Yes! This coherence of the storyline is what makes it a story. Coherence means that the story bits and pieces hang together to present a story that communicates.
Incratic systems have dictates, such as creating the right number of pages, that may have nothing to do with reporting news stories. Reading a summary in the story intro, and then rereading it as it is rephrased to fill space, even though nothing new is told in the rephrase, is another dictate that has nothing to do with telling the story. Every story may be part of a larger story, but the structure of a report or a larger ongoing story is the same: beginning, middle, end.
So if the story is about an "event," such as a small earthquake, stars moving in space, trees falling dead in Antarctica, a building collapse, or retirement of a little known politician - just mentioning the event does not make a story.
Events garner little interest by themselves. Properly told stories generate a lot of interest.
Next: The hook. Why would I care? The beginning.
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