In the last-but-one class of the Storytelling course I taught this semester, I shared some ideas for doing better journalism. I’m sure none of these is original; I’ve likely stolen them from several sources.
Find inspiration: There are many people, blogs and tweet streams I follow for the inspiration they provide. Brainpickings, by Maria Popova, is one. Richard Koci Hernandez is another, and I love Melissa Lyttle’s life of m. Find your own sources: websites with RSS feed, on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr or Facebook. Visit often. Have fun.
Write every day: Blog. Tweet. Play (write bad metaphors). Write a scene, a description, a snatch of dialogue. Write a poem or a song. Set a goal and hit it. Write it, read it, make it better. Have fun.
Read every day: Read critically, for style, for content, for structure, for use of quotes and dialogue, for language, for rhythm. Save the pieces you really like so you can go back to them. Have fun.
Take a photograph a day: Not just a snapshot, something that gets you more familiar with your camera and your image-making. Push yourself. Try low light, flash, silhouettes, more. Set a goal or a challenge before you head out. Have fun.
Once a week: Take your digital recorder out and record the world: snatches of conversation, sounds of the street, a merchant at a farmer’s market, anything. Learn how your recorder works best, learn about isolating sound, learn about handling. Have fun.
Once a month: Interview someone (friend, family, neighbourhood grocer, etc.). Have a subject and a goal so it’s a real interview aimed at getting real information. Record it and then transcribe it. What worked? What didn’t? What questions could/should you have asked? Which type of questions garnered the best responses? How was the flow? Have fun.
Once a month: Shoot some video. Work on gathering scenes that will work together. Work close, work medium, work far. Pick a topic — harbour ferries, Yaletown dogs, a day at the beach — and shoot to tell a coherent story. Have fun.
Publish often: Get your stuff out where people can see it and, more importantly, react to it. Promote yourself on social media to get feedback. Listen to and weigh the feedback. Don’t publish everything: be tough on yourself and only publish what you consider the best, or the stuff that’s giving you problems. Give yourself deadlines and practice hitting them. Have fun.