Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

How to make great stories come to you

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 23, 2010

Finding & telling a great story is what drives many journalists in what they do.

We put lots of effort into figuring out how to tell the stories, but not enough is ever written, or taught, about where these mystical narrative apparitions appear from. Most stories fall flat, not because of the telling, or the media, or the equipment used – but because the story isn’t good enough.

So, where the hell can we find these stories?

Well, the Brighton Future of News Group, run by Sarah Booker, have come up with a great little scheme to find great stories…by getting them to come to you!

How does it work?

Last week, #bfong held an open ’empty shop’ day in Shoreham-on-Sea, a small seaside town on Britain’s south coast. Anyone could pop in with old photographs, artifacts or just stories of their lives and the town. And on hand were a group of journalists, armed with cameras, laptops and audio recording equipment.

Handily, the press-pack included Judith Townend, Adam Tinworth, Adam Oxford and Sarah Booker, some of the most sharp-eyed Next Generation Journalists around.

The team used a live Tumblr blog as their platform for stories they produced – and collected dozens throughout the day. People wandered in, perhaps attracted or made curious by the sign outside. The team also hit the streets too.

Adam Oxford interviews a resident

Sarah Booker interviews a resident

It seems like a wonderful experiment in doing journalism a little bit differently. If the hacks on the local paper were as enterprising, they’d have gathered enough material to fill an edition. Instead, they were left covering the event as an outsider.

What’s exciting is this approach can be easily mimicked in any community. Pick a day, gather some journalists, find a free public space and open up shop! Judith plans to bring the open-shop approach to the refugee community in London and my mind is spinning with ideas for other settings too.

The irony of this age is there are more stories out there than there ever have been; but too many journalists have paralysed themselves with arguments about who will pay for it.

We just need to get out there, take the #bfong open-shop approach and tell some stories. That’s the future.

6 Responses

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  1. Martin said, on October 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I am a little confused? What drew the attention of the people to walk into the “empty shop”? Was there an enticing sign, free food, or what else gave the people the will to walk into the shop?

  2. Sarah Booker said, on October 25, 2010 at 10:51 am

    We publicised the event via the Empty Shops Network, on blogs, on Twitter, Facebook etc, in the local newspaper, had signs in the street and a few shops.
    We also had biscuits and fruit.

    Many people just wandered in because the shop has been in a derelict state for some years and they were curious to find out why there were people inside and what we were doing.

    • Adam said, on October 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

      Also, our collective raw, visceral sex appeal helped, obviously.🙂

      More seriously, Cathy did fine work in getting out and talking to people in the street. If no-one came to her, she went out and found a story. Inspiring.

  3. links for 2010-10-25 « Sarah Hartley said, on October 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    […] How to make great stories come to you « Adam Westbrook What’s exciting is this approach can be easily mimicked in any community. Pick a day, gather some journalists, find a free public space and open up shop! Judith plans to bring the open-shop approach to the refugee community in London and my mind is spinning with ideas for other settings too. (tags: storytelling interaction content news journalism) […]

  4. links for 2010-10-27 « pabwall said, on October 27, 2010 at 10:02 am

    […] MĂ©dias locaux // Comment faire venir les belles histoires jusqu'Ă  vous ? (Adam Westbrook) Le Brighton Future of News Group, emmenĂ© par Sarah Booker, organise des "permanences" dans des lieux publics et invite habitants du secteur de venir raconter leurs belles histoires… RĂ©sultat : quelques tĂ©moignages un peu insignifiants mais aussi une mine de bons sujets, de vieilles photos d'archives, etc. (tags: webjournalisme journalisme info-locale hyperlocal localnews histoires) […]

  5. […] Uma ideia engraçada e original, no mĂ­nimo: How to make great stories come to you. […]


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