Let’s start by defining a few key terms. This will guide us as we narrow our focus to telling news stories.
Story: a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse or instruct the reader or listener. a report or account of a matter; statement or allegation.
News story: a news report of any length, written in a straightforward style and without editorial comment.
News reporter: a person who covers events and investigates public issues and reports or edits news stories intended for a public audience.
So reporters are involved in the storytelling process, but within the non-fiction realm and with a focus on public issues that affect their audience.
Story Types: This list contains the basic types of stories a multimedia journalist (MMJ) is most likely to produce. The focus is on the content and time frame of the story rather the the technology used to produce and distribute the story.
First, the two very broad types of news:
- Hard news: timely events and issues that have a big impact on the public (war, taxes, crime, education, economy, elections, climate change, etc.), and also usually involve conflict and/or controversy
- Soft news: stories about people and events that might be fun and interesting, but don’t necessarily have major public impact
These aren’t hard and fast definitions. There’s often a lot of wiggle room between hard and soft news. Some stories might have major public impact, but also have lighter, human interest elements.
Now a look at story types based more on how and when the events happen, or how a reporter develops and produces the story.
- Spot news: events of importance that are happening right now, also called “breaking news”
- Daily news: scheduled events of importance, usually planned events that reporters cover such as a campaign speech
- Enterprise news: original stories that a reporter develops through research and communication with news sources, includes hard and soft news
- Franchise: specialized reporting that is produced on a regular, ongoing basis (a daily health news segment, or weekly environmental report), can also include investigative reporting
In the first two (spot news and daily news), the reporter is typically responding to events, often with little or no time to do background research. The emphasis is on getting to the scene and getting the facts. The reporter must also try to provide the audience with a range of perspectives on the event, balancing and evaluating competing claims on whatever issue is at stake. It’s most important to find out who is most involved and affected by the event and build the story around them.
With enterprise and franchise stories, the reporter does actually spend time — a lot of time — doing research. They develop original stories based on what they see and hear out in the community, and what they learn by searching public documents and other sources of data. They don’t just regurgitate the same content that other reporters have already covered. They try to add to the public conversation by looking into new areas. Enterprise stories can also have a unique angle on a big local or national event/issue. For example, if there was a big fire recently that got lots of coverage, an enterprising reporter might dig into the backstory of one of the firefighters or someone else affected by the fire. A profile story about this person that presents new facts and compelling information could be considered an “enterprise angle” or “localized enterprise” story. In sum, there are lots of sub-types within the broad category of enterprise stories.
In Grady’s Video Journalism classes, you have the opportunity to produce both hard and soft news stories. Most of those will be enterprise stories, which will require you to do research and meet people in the community before you start shooting video. You must get out of your comfort zone and discover new stories!