Narrative Journalism: From Interview to Publication | Samantha Riggi | Skillshare

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Narrative Journalism: From Interview to Publication

teacher avatar Samantha Riggi, For the love of writing...and dogs.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction to Narrative Journalism

    • 2. Finding Your Interviewee

    • 3. Setting Up An Interview

    • 4. Being a Good Listener

    • 5. Open Ended Questions

    • 6. The Writing Process

    • 7. Photos, Quotes and More

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About This Class

In this class, you will learn how to marry journalism and story telling in order to write an engaging story for publication. This class is great for intermediate level freelancer writers or blog writers. This class will take you through some tips for having a successful interview, finding the "story" you want to tell and how to structure your article to keep your audience reading.

*Update - background music has been removed from all speaking sections.

Meet Your Teacher

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Samantha Riggi

For the love of writing...and dogs.


Hello, I'm Samantha. I'm a freelance copywriter and copyeditor, as well as an instructional coach and children's book author. I write whenever and wherever I can, though my favorite spot is on my couch with my dogs.  When I'm not writing, you can find me hanging with my family, sipping coffee and reading a book, experimenting in the kitchen, or binging on Netflix. 

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1. Introduction to Narrative Journalism: Hi, My name is Samantha Rigging, and I'll be your instructor for the skill share class Narrative journalism from interview to publication. I'm currently a freelance writer, a Children's book author and a skill share instructor, and this class is really going to focus on the idea of marrying journalism with storytelling. So today's readers are really looking for something more than just a who, what, when, where and why kind of story. They're looking for that human element and that that piece that keeps the story moving and that keeps them engaged. So we're gonna look at that style of writing. It's called narrative journalism or journalistic storytelling. Whatever you'd like to call it, um, this class would be well suited for beginner and intermediate level freelancers or brought bloggers. And the final project is going to be kind of two parts, depending on if you're already writing for a publication or if you're doing your own thing and you're looking for people to interview. So if you're already writing for a publication, the project would focus around setting up that interview and creating some really good open ended questions that will keep the story going and keep the lines of communication open between you and the interviewee. If you're a blogger, the project is going to focus on finding someone interesting to interview and going ahead and getting that interview set up. So I hope you enjoy the class. I'll be keeping the lessons short and sweet, and I like to get to the point and get you back to what you want to be doing, which is writing, So thanks for watching. 2. Finding Your Interviewee: Welcome back. This is less than one. And this lesson is going to focus on finding your interviewee if you already have an interviewee assigned to feel free, to skip ahead, to lessen to or stick around if you're just curious about the process. So when you sit down and you start thinking about who you want to interview, it can be pretty overwhelming. The world is a big place, and there are a lot of interesting people out there. So the main thing to start with is to think about your publication and to think about your audience. Who, Who are you writing to? Okay, who is your reader? Your reader is going to have on expectation if they open your blogger or click on your article of what they're going to get, so you want to give them what they're expecting. Of course, you want to keep it fresh and interesting, but it needs to stay within that lane of consistency. So start thinking about who you're writing to and what type of story is your reader going to be interested in the next piece to consider when looking for an interviewee is, think about what you're passionate about what draws you in. What makes you interested to keep reading? Look through your social media accounts. Who do you follow? What would make a good story and start kind of keeping a list of all the different people or businesses that might be appealing to your audience? The next piece to consider is, Is this person someone that you could reasonably reach out? Teoh. Chances of connecting with AH, famous Hollywood movie star Pretty slim. But people that are in your community, or more local or maybe a little less famous, might be someone that you could connect with more reasonably. So as you go through your list, start to scratch off the people that are probably not likely to want to be interviewed by you. At this point, you should have a list of at least a few people that you could reach out to for an interview. However, if you're struggling to find someone, there are a lot of resource is in your local community that could be helpful. So start thinking about the public library. Any new businesses that may have recently opened real estate agencies. Real estate agencies tend to be really tapped into what's going on in the community. So if you happen to know a real estate agent, reach out to them and see, you know if they know anybody that would be interested in getting interviewed and if it would be relevant for you. Another awesome place to check out is the Chamber of Commerce events. They oftentimes happen maybe at your public, one of your public buildings in your community. And usually the people that are invited are local business owners and different community members that are contributing to your community. So it's another good place to network. You could attend an event, be ready toe, have, you know, to make some contacts and maybe pass out some business cards and to potentially set up some some interviews. So your chamber of commerce events would be another great resource to tap into. So hopefully, at this point, you're really thinking about who you might be able to reach out to in the next lesson. We're going to focus on actually making contact and setting up that interview. So stay tuned 3. Setting Up An Interview: Welcome back. This is lesson to, and it's about making contact. So at this point, you've either been assigned your interviewee or you have found the person you are interested in interviewing. So now it's time to get in touch with that person and actually make a plan and set up in interview. I always like to start by reaching out with an email. The email to me just feels a little bit more appropriate if you're reaching out to someone that you don't know. This gives them an opportunity to research you and kind of think about whether or not they're interested without being put on the spot. So I always like to start with a brief email introducing myself, telling them who I am and who I'm writing for and then asking them if they would be interested in um, having a brief interview with me. And I always say it will only take about 20 to 30 minutes of your time. We don't want people that air potential interviewees to feel like this is going to be a huge undertaking. So, of course, the interview doesn't even have toe end up being 20 or 30 minutes. Maybe you get everything that you need within 15 but kind of give them that expectation that they should expect Teoh to give up about 30 minutes of their time. So hopefully they will agree to the interview if they don't kind of back to step one, reaching out to someone else on your list. But if they do agree at this point, you're going to start researching this person. So you're going to want to research research research. You want to find past interviews. You want to find anything on Google. You want to look at their social media platforms and see who they are. When you interview this person, you want your interview to have its own fresh angle. You don't want to be repeating questions that they've already answered somewhere else, and you want to have a little bit of background information on this person so that you have some talking points in some points of connection. I like to keep all my notes in just a simple Google folder. I keep links to any of their profiles and just any information that I can come up with, along with some potential talking points based off of that For example, if I see that someone went Teoh the same colleges, me or if they have another similarity, that might be something where I can find a connection so that that person, once we get down to interviewing, is going to feel a little bit more comfortable speaking with me. So at this point, you should also be thinking about setting up that actual interview. The interview can take place by phone by Skype or some other sort of video chat or in person. But whatever it it ends up being, you need to make sure that you're prepared and that you find either, if you're on the phone, that you have a quiet space or if you're meeting in person that it's somewhere where you won't be interrupted. Also, if you're doing a video chat, you're gonna want to make sure that again that you have a quiet space with without a lot of background noise and things, because it could be pretty distracting, and it can also interfere with your audio recording, which we'll get to later. So at this point, once my person has agreed and we've set up our time in place, I like to send them, Ah, little email, just kind of over viewing the types of questions that I might be asking just to get them thinking. I have had some interviewees respond in writing first and tell me some answers to some of those questions, but it's not necessary. And you make sure that you say that in the email so that they don't feel like they're doing extra work. Although some people may choose to just get some of that information down in that email initially, if they do that, it gives you a good opportunity to create some follow up questions before you actually have your conversation. So hopefully you have some idea about where you will be when you're conducting your interview, that's going to be quiet and a space that's uninterrupted. If you're struggling to find a location to have your phone call or your video chat, I would recommend renting out space at the public library. It's usually free if you are remember, and they have a quiet meeting rooms. They even have a recording rooms at many libraries, so it might be a good place to sit down and record that interview and conduct that interview if you are meeting in person looking at, AH public park or a restaurant that sort of in an off time, you know you don't want to go during the dinner or the lunch rush. But if you can get in there at an unusual time, when it may be quiet, that could potentially be another place to conduct an interview. I've gone so far as to conduct an interview from my car just simply because my house was too noisy at the time and I was able to get set up and kind of comfortable in my car and get my audio recording ready. So it did work out. But usually I would recommend your office or ah, you know, public library space or somewhere where you know it's going to be nice and quiet and uninterrupted. So I did mention the audio recording, and we'll get into that a little bit more later. But if you are already familiar with the process of audio recording, make sure that you do a test before you actually do the interview. The last thing you would want is to think your recording when it's actually not. Then you realize the interview is over and you haven't recorded anything. So make sure that your audio recording works and that you've tested it. Also, have your computer ready. You know, it's important that you're engaged in the conversation so you don't want to be too focused on note taking, but you might want to take some notes as you're listening to your interview. We speak, so you'll want to have that computer ready with your notes pulled up, your questions pulled up and anything else that you might want to be looking at during that interview process back to audio recording. I usually just use quick time on my computer. It's it's already on my computer and it's easy and it's effective. However, there are a lot, a lot of other tools out there. Some are even built into, ah, video chatting tools. So it depends how you know fancy. You want to get with your equipment, but a simple, quick time will dio. There are also lots of APS that you could download on your phone that also have recording, but I would highly recommend recording your interviews. It's very important to have, um, for direct quotes and also just to go back and re listen and look for little elements that might be of interest to your reader. So I always record my interviews. I like to keep them. I've even found that I'm able to sometimes get more than one story out of one interview, which can be great if you're submitting to different publications. And you think that the reader might be interested in that person as well. So again, keeping that auto audio recording is very helpful, and I highly recommend that you do that in the next lesson. Less than three. We're going to talk about being a good listener. 4. Being a Good Listener: Welcome back. This is less than three, and it's all about being a good listener, so I cannot stress the listening enough. When you are an interviewer, you need to make sure that you are not cutting off your interviewee. I've actually listened to some interviews where the interviewer is actually cutting into the interviewees answer to their question and kind of redirecting the topic Teoh to themselves. This interview is not about you. It is about the interviewee. So you need to make sure that you are not cutting them off. If you cut off what they're saying, you're potentially missing some really interesting story items. Now, this isn't to say that you don't want to have some sort of connection on the phone with your interviewees. So I like to start off with a little bit of small talk. Maybe one or two minutes of just kind of, you know, bantering and, you know, talking a little bit about you know, something maybe that you noticed on one of their social media platforms or something when you were Googling that person that you could connect. Teoh, this is gonna help make your interview. We feel more comfortable with you, but you definitely don't want to cut in every single time there answering your question with stories of your brother's sister's girlfriend or this one time in college, things like that. So you want to make sure that your focuses solely on them, but with a little bit of, ah, comfort built in at the beginning so that this person is more willing to open up to you. Okay, so more than likely, you've already emailed your subject a list of you know, some general questions around the topics that you're going to be discussing. But at this point, you're gonna actually start asking them those questions, which will get to how toe how to craft those a little bit later. But as you're asking them those questions, you know, do that little bit of a delayed pause at the end of what they say and start thinking about how you could follow up with something else or what kind of sparks your interest about what they answered. Give them a few moments to make sure that they're done speaking and then go in with your follow up question. At this point again, you'll want to be taking notes But also you should be recording so that you're not missing anything, especially any quotes that might work well for your story. Later, you'll kind of get a sense of when your interview is kind of ready to end. You'll feel that you've kind of exhausted your your questions and that you're ready to end things. But before you ended that interview, you'll want to make sure that you let the person know that you will be following up with them for requests for photographs within a specific time frame or any follow up questions that you may have. And you want to do this, you know, within a few days so that the mo mentum isn't lost from that person feeling good about the interview. Also, you'll want to let them know that you'll share that publication with them when it becomes available, and something I actually like to do is I share a little sneak peek or a preview or the actual story with my interview. We just for fact checking purposes. It's not something that you necessarily have to do, but I find that it's it's kind of a courtesy, and it's a little helpful in that if there is an error or something, that's incorrect, that you don't have to go back and retract something that you've written. So I do like to send my stories. Or maybe it's even just pieces of your story to that person prior to sending it to publication. Of course, your editor made tweak it and modify some of the text, but as long as the facts are correct, you can feel good about going ahead with that story. 5. Open Ended Questions: Welcome back. This next lesson lesson for is all about the types of questions that you should be asking. Remember, this is journalistic storytelling or narrative journalism. So you do wanna have a journalistic feel, but also your writing personality should shine through. It shouldn't be dry. In order to get that story piece, you really need to ask open ended questions of your interviewee. This way they'll be more likely to share information that is more interesting and not something that you'll be able to just find online when you're doing your research about your subject. So the first thing you'll need to ask yourself is. Who is your audience? Who are you writing to? What type of story is your audience going to be expecting again? When they click on your story, they're gonna have an expectation of what they're going to get, so you want to make sure that you give that to them, so keep your audience in mind. Also, think about your interviewee and what types of things you might find in their history. That might make an interesting story for you. So at this point, you should have already done some pretty extensive research about the person you're going to interview, so you can start by crafting some open ended questions, but that are specific to what you have found out about this person. So, for example, if you're interviewing someone and you're going to be learning more about their job or their cause, you might say something like, What led you to this position? How has your background shaped you to be ready for this type of work? What do you love most about what you're doing or what challenges do you face in this position or with this cause if you're asking about them or is a personal type of interview , you might say things like, How would you describe yourself to someone else or what motivates you? Or what types of things are you passionate about? If your story is more about this person's interests and hobbies, you might ask them what is something you find yourself spending a lot of time doing or describe your favorite meal or dessert, or tell me about a time you did something adventurous. If your story is more about your interviewees, cause then you might want to ask them their opinion about certain things related to that cause or have them tell you how they feel about certain things related to that cause. Generally speaking, any questions that you start with tell me about or describe or how what or why are going to give you the kinds of open ended answers that you're looking for? Just remember to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no and avoid asking questions that you could have already found the answer to through your research up. Next, we're going to dig a little deeper into the writing process. Stay tuned. 6. The Writing Process: Welcome back in this lesson less than five. We're going to talk about the writing process, so at this point you should already have a bunch of notes and your audio copy of your interview. Go ahead and make sure that you've saved those into a file that will be easy to find later . I usually use the person's name and the company they work for or their name of their cause , but it's important to have easy reference to this if you need to go back and find something and again, if you remember earlier, I mentioned that occasionally you can get more than one story out of an interview, so it'll be important later on to have that information save properly. At this point, it's time to start writing. So my first step is always to re read my notes and re listen to my interview. I like to hear the audio again, especially if it's been a couple of days since I've had the interview and I haven't gotten to the writing yet. It really keeps it fresh in my mind and helps me find some stand out points that I could possibly turn into my section headings later on. So, as you're going through your notes or re listening to your interview, start to pull out about 5 to 7 main points that can be turned into your section headings. After you have about 5 to 7 headings, which can be renamed later, you don't have to come up with the actual name. Now just the general idea. You'll start wanting to write your supporting paragraphs and entering in some quotations from the interview that would really support that section. The readers today are really looking for material that's a little bit more digestible and a little bit shorter. So you're gonna want to keep those paragraphs pretty short about 2 to 3 sentences at the most, with some supporting quotations. I usually do about 2 to 5 paragraphs per section and one or two quotations that really support that section built in. You're also going to want to keep in mind that your paragraphs are short, so you're gonna want to keep the information very clear and concise for your reader. As you look back at each section and your re reading, make sure that you have varied the structure a little bit. You don't want to start every quotation the same. You don't want to start every new paragraph with the same type of format, so go ahead and vary the structure. And as you're thinking about that, you also might want to vary the order in which you're putting things as you do your subsequent sections. So sometimes you might want to start with a paragraph. Other times, you might want to start with that direct quote. If you've been assigned your story by someone that you're writing for, they may have given you an approximate word count. To keep in mind is your target. But if they haven't, there are some average word counts that seem to work really well for this type of writing. The word counts can range from about 500 words to up to 1500 words, but the sweet spot seems to be right around 1000 words. So as you're thinking about your story and laying out your structure, keep that word count in mind If you go too much over it, it may not be as easy to read for the publications that you're writing for or for your blawg as you go through your story you're gonna want to start to add in some photographs. So the photos air really crucial. Readers today want some visual elements to the writing that they see. So you're gonna want to add the photos that you've gotten from your interviewee. If you were unable to obtain photos from the person that you interviewed, you can always use stock photos. Just make sure that if you are getting them from a different source that you are giving credit to the person who took the photograph. You don't want to get hit with any issues later. Choose photographs to support each section. It should really be something that complements what you've written and complements the quotations. Also, be sure to add a little caption. The caption can give your readers some or information without changing the word count of your story. As you get to the end of your story, go back and do a re read and start thinking about what is the most important point that stands out for this piece. Once you kind of have that in mind. Think about how you could phrase that into the title. I always wait till the end to do my title because sometimes the story takes a different twist as I'm working on it, and I want to make sure that my title is the most relevant, that it can be for that piece. I also like to end my story with either a redirect to the interviewees website or blawg if they don't have a website or block. I always like to end my story with some sort of fun quotation or some sort of ending sentence. That kind of lets the reader know that the story is over. One last thing to keep in mind as you're looking over the entirety of your story is that each section should be fairly similar to the others in length. You wanted to have a consistency to it. Of course, there may be a little bit more information in one section versus another section, but they should have some sort of consistency to it. The headings that you choose once you have gone back and looked at them again. If you decide to rename them, make sure that they really support what you've written below and that they're compelling enough to keep your reader moving forward through your story. You don't want to lose them halfway through because your headings aren't really standing out to them. 7. Photos, Quotes and More: Welcome back. This section is less in six, and it's about photos, quotes and other miscellaneous things that you'll need to know before submitting your work . Okay, Number one. Give credit where credit is due. Any photographs or outside sources of information need to be properly sighted. Make sure that you give credit to the person who either wrote it or took that photograph number to proof. Read your story. You don't want to be submitting something that is sloppy and full of errors. Of course, your editor might catch a few things and they might do some rewarding. And that's fine. But you want to submit your best work, so use your spell check. Use your grammar check. Read it out loud. You may even consider using a site like Graham early, or if you have someone that you work with that would be willing to give your story a look. That would be really helpful, but I highly recommend reading your stories out loud. That tends to be where I catch most of my mistakes. So read it out loud, not once, not twice, but three times is usually a good place to start, and then once you feel like you're work has been meticulously checked. Then you're ready to move to the next step. This is an optional step, but again, it's something that I recommend. Send your work in your piece over to the person that you interviewed to get that final stamp of approval. It's not necessarily required, but it is kind of a courtesy, and it can help clear up any misunderstandings or any facts that maybe were misinterpreted by you. So I always like to send it off and make sure that they are behind the story 100% before I submitted for publication. Once the interviewee has given their stamp of approval than you're ready to, go ahead and submit that to your editor or uploaded to your blog's or website. Once your story is live, go ahead and share that link with the interviewee. And also don't forget to put your story out on your different social media platforms. You want to be promoting yourself as a writer and promoting the people that you've interviewed so share away. Use those platforms to your advantage