J-School “Lite” by maggie soladay

by guest blogger Emily True

The social networking and citizen journalism media explosion has provided plenty of avenues for participating in the creation of news.

How many times today have you updated you Twitter/blog/Facebook account?

The fact that I was late this morning because the F train was slow might not appear worthy of “breaking news” status; however, as news becomes more localized, personal accounts take on an increasingly important role.

Narrative journalism, or “new journalism”, utilizes personal, mundane details to create an intimate connection between the subject of the story and the reader. Think Studs Turkel. Or Gay Talese. Or Anne Hull. These journalists collect personal stories, spend enormous amounts of time in the field with their subjects, and ultimately provide their readers with a unique perspective and voice on larger, more complicated topics.

Maybe journalism school isn’t your thing, but you are interested in learning how to tell a compelling story. There are a few great graduate-level certificate programs that promote the documentary approach to storytelling and arm their students with skills in reporting, ethics, and production.

Picture 5The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, in Portland, Maine offers an intensive semester program in documentary radio, writing, and photography. Students choose a story and spend their four months reporting and work-shopping their pieces with their peers. Graduates have gone on to work for NPR, National Geographic, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Picture 8The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University offers continuing education classes in fields of documentary photography, videography, and audio documentary, culminating in a Certificate in Documentary Arts. They also offer individual workshops in topics ranging from Oral History Fundamentals, Documentary Narrative, Audio Postcards, and Literacy through Photography.

If going back to school isn’t an option at the moment, pick up a copy of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. The quick-read is a compilation of essays and advice from some of the best nonfiction writers out there.

– Emily True is a graduate of the Salt Institute.

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