Mindy McAdams: reports vs. stories

March 10, 2011

“There are stories right under our noses everywhere we go. There’s no need to go to “an event” to find a story. I don’t mean deep analysis, but rather a spark, a nugget, a neat little twist.”

Mindy McAdams, journalism professor and expert on online journalism, explains that “a lot of journalism is merely reports,” in her article “Is your story actually a story.

Listing the five w’s and the h generates information that we can use to mold our stories, yes. The problem is that journalism novices all too often compile the information into writing, but do not delve deeper into their subject. Mindy McAdams says, “the issue is that when I ask students to go out and find a story, that is fresh, that has something new or provacative or engaging to offer– they come back with a report.”

After reading the article, I began to wonder if I could even truly define or explain what a real story would be. After reading her comment, “I’m thinking of the ability to walk down the street, or go to the shopping mall or the center of campus and spot something in which you can discover something fresh,” I thought I had finally figured it out. If I wanted to write a story, not a report, I could go to a store in the mall and try to find out when the store was founded, what its mission is, and how it is affecting the community.

If I collected all that information, I could write a story that Mindy McAdams is talking about right? Wrong. I would still just be collecting the five W’s and the H. How can a young journalist learn to find the stories that Mindy McAdams speaks of, and how do we even define the differences between stories and reports?

Perhaps McAdams is holding students to too high a standard and her reader Chris Machniak is right, “what we can’t forget with students is it takes longer than a single class or even a bachelor’s degree to really become an expert or professional in news writing or reporting.”

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