How storytelling leads to more impact

It’s been 3 months now since I started my new job as a chief storytelling with VRT (Belgium), focusing on how we do stories for the 7 o’clock news.

Since then I have been talking to dozens of people from newsrooms across the globe who are also trying to stay on top of new trends in storytelling and how news broadcasts can learn from the digital revolution and online storytelling.

Here you’ll find the slides from keynotes I have been giving on storytelling in visual journalism (this set was in particular prepared for SVT Sweden). While scrolling trough the slides, you’ ll find some screenshots of examples I show. You’ll find them below.

One of the stories we aired in the past few weeks was one one the refugees waiting line to apply for visa. A topic (the refugees crisis), we reported several times, but this time we started brainstorming on how to do things differently. Eventually we focused on the line waiting outside the office and filmed the people waiting in 1 shot. The voice over was some kind of inner ‘monologue’, focusing on some people we asked permission before filming. We got a lot of reactions on this story. People were getting used to the reports on refugees, with this approach we tried to show them again as human being, with hopes, dreams and goals in life. The story was made by Riadh Bahri, Madj Khalifeh and me.

In january of this year, VRT journalist Jens Franssen, went back to Syria to report on the war that is been going on for 5 years now. Before he went there, Jens was struggling to find the right angle for his story, since a lot of things had already been told. During one of my workshops he was inspired by  Ebola Ambulance (Ben Solomon for the NYTimes). So Jens went to Syria and filmed a series of portraits o ordinary people struggling to survive. We see the world trough their eyes. Jens chose not to use a voice over and focused on just one main character for every story. The report aired in our news broadcasts.

Journalist Riadh Bahri did a story on ‘Dirty Brussels’. Brussels has the biggest car free zone in Europe, but the city is dealing with a lot of people throwing their garbage on the streets and some other issues. Riadh lives around the corner and was fed up with everything he saw and one morning he took his iPhone and went out there filming. This is a story you can perfectly film with a camera crew, but I supported this approach because uses his smartphone as a point of view camera. You might also notice that he is talking during while filming and added the gaps with a more narrative voice over. In this way you add some value to your story and the camera, because you use it as a personal story device.

By 2018, 69% of mobile internet traffic will be people watching mobile video. If you are working with a broadcaster or the TV News, you will face some tough competition from online video creators (such as newspapers). By not only focusing on what to report, but also on how to do it, TV reporters can stay on top of new trends and approaches in video storytelling.