Ron Stodghill’s tips for storytelling

Ron Stodghill is a new professor at the Missouri School of Journalism who has published a few books and some of his work has been published in Time, the New York Times, Business Week, and several other newspapers. He joined my 4450: News Reporting lecture today to give us advice about storytelling.

We started the class by talking about timelines. They helped Ron start one of his books and have helped him start a lot of his other pieces. He had everyone in the class make their own timeline of their life events and compare them to a timeline of events that were happening in the world at the time. We then shared our timelines and talked about them. A lot of people had major sporting events shape their timeline. Mine was comprised of presidents and major worldwide events such as the attacks on September 11. We compared these two timelines because Ron said that you need to be aware of intersections in your stories and you need to know how to connect them.

Ron also gave us these tips for before you even begin reporting:

  • Capture the sensory moments in reporting, such as color.
  • Figure out how you can make your reader care about your story.
  • Where is the tension and conflict in the story?
  • Find the intellectual backdrop of the story and the lineage to it. (this is where timelines come into play)
  • Who are the sources? What are you hoping they tell you?
  • Who controls the space you are entering? (he referred to these people as ‘haters’)
  • What is essential for the story, but is boring?
  • How to make your piece distinctive
  • Finally, how will it be structured

These tips are very helpful, and I thank Ron for them. I hope that I can apply everything I learned from this to my future reporting.