Stories vs. Facts

That headline is the one I was going to use at first when I wrote Journalism in a world of open code and open self-education, over in . It’s a thinky piece, but that’s what can happen when journalists hang out in a place like the Berkman Center, where we did a lot of thinking out loud about journalism yesterday.

For my part, I thought about stories, and their limitations as ways to freight facts. Also of their advantages for telling truth. As my old friend the priest Sean Olaoire once said, “Some truths are so deep that only stories can tell them”. Sean is one of the world’s best story-tellers. I’m not always sure about his facts, but I also know that’s not his business.

The business of journalism is also worth thinking about. Because telling stories is what we do, and moving facts from mind to mind isn’t the whole job there. There are other purposes. I visit at least one of those in that piece too.

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7 Responses to Stories vs. Facts

  1. Ike says:

    Doc, go get your hands on “The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons. It is an amazing book, that helps you understand the power of the stories we all must tell, and the ways they carry truth.

    She really lays out the way people will reject facts that don’t jibe with their internal story — and the only way to displace a story is with one that resonates more powerfully.

    Get the book — you will not be disappointed. (And no, I’m not her agent. Never met her.)

  2. Doug says:

    I find that the more I ‘self-inform’ via search, the more attracted I am to generalist magazines like The Atlantic and the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

    I need good journalism because it introduces me to new areas of knowledge which I can investigate further, or at least file away in the back of my mind. That’s one way I see journalism changing. Its purpose now is to point me in new, interesting directions. They provide ‘interesting;’ I’ll make it relevant as I dig deeper and apply what I learn to my individual circumstance.

    Of course, that only works when important facts about an area of knowledge are available online. Often they’re not, and therefore the ‘old’ model of investigative journalism remains essential.

  3. Mike Warot says:

    Well said, Doc.

    You just prompted me to go back and clean up a small error in my blog that I noticed earlier today, a simple transposition of street names. It’s entirely likely nobody would have noticed, but I’m starting to consider the blog as a diary for me more than anything else… and it’s best to have everything straight, even the trivial stuff.

    I’ve been focusing more on getting things connected lately. By this I mean tagging, geotagging, and putting my photos into sets on Flickr. I’ve been trying to put meaningful tags on my blog posts as well.

    I get probably 10 hits/day on either, but that means they have value to someone other than me… which is good enough to make it worth doing right.

    Thanks for making a connection in my brain that wasn’t there before… for inFORMing me.

    I hope we get to meet some time.


  4. Hi,
    I originally commented on the Linux Journal, but it looks like my comment may have vanished.
    Anyhow, my comment related to the definition of journalism as telling stories. I was taught early on that the essential skill of the journalist is researching the story, and not to worry about writing it, as that was the responsibility of the sub-editors. As far as I’m aware, that’s the more accepted wisdom on some UK national papers, as well as some of the titles I’ve worked on.
    It’s not quite as romantic to imagine a lot of the literary quality actually comes from a guy in an office, who works on several stories and pages a day, rather than a whisky-slugging newshound out in the field.

    But it does point to the skills which I think will remain valuable, even as the methods of distribution of a story radically change, and the formal institutions of the media industry adapt or die…

  5. Don Marti says:

    Getting the Story, and not just a narrative, is something that sportswriters generally do better than the IT media.

    If sportswriters covered football like a lot of the IT Media covers Linux, we’d have stories like, “Anti-Dallas-Cowboys football players played a game of football today. Will non-Dallas-Cowboys football ever enter the mainstream?”

  6. Joel says:

    Hello Doc,
    Is this the same Sean Olaoire to which you referred?
    Many blessings,

  7. Pingback: Doc Searls Weblog · Independent voices

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