There’s an art to telling a story. It isn’t just knowing how to line up the beginning, middle and end in the right way so the story makes sense…
Anyone who’s ever listened to someone massacre a joke knows what I mean. A joke, after all, is just a story — sketched out in a handful of words. But it works by the same storytelling principle. A set up and a punchline are the beginning, middle & end of a story.
To correctly and successfully tell a joke or a story, you have to know all the pieces of the story — or suspect enough about where they’re going to at least tap dance through the ending. I just finished a book (looking for a publisher now — “How To Live Bullshit Free (and other Showbiz Tales)” — which basically tells my own story; I knew going in what the story was — but, even so, the ending took me by surprise — and I was the guy writing it. Stories can take on a life of their own.
But, in order to go where the story takes you, you have to be fully invested in it. More than that, you have to be the story’s teller — and not the person to whom the story is being told. There’s a huge difference. A huge philosophical difference.
In order to tell you a story, I have to gain your confidence — that is, I have to convince you to suspend your belief if only for a moment. If I tell you that a dog walks into a bar — and you stop me: “Wait — dogs can’t walk into bars!” — then I’ve failed at the start. You haven’t suspended your belief enough to allow the fantastical element at the heart of my story to take wing. But, if instead, you said: “Cool — so, a dog walks into a bar — tell me more!” then I’ve succeeded — at the start. You will let me take you wherever I want — so long as the story stays interesting and doesn’t violate its own rules.
To put a finer point on that — you become the passive listener while I become the active storyteller.
That’s how storytelling works. OUR problem is our Main Stream News Media doesn’t get that. Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth and lies — and the News Media repeats the lie as if it could be true — they stop being storytellers and start being the guy the story was told to instead — who’s simply repeating what he heard. That is not storytelling.
Yes, yes — part of storytelling is listening to others — so you can tell their stories — but storytellers are tasked with finding deeper Truths inside other peoples’ stories — and then telling them. That’s where storytelling ‘art’ kicks in.
It’s not a hard problem to fix. Actually, it’s shockingly easy. All any journalist ever has to do is remind themselves on which side of the storytelling equation they’re supposed to sit. And if they can’t remember themselves, it’s incumbent on US to remind them — as loudly and persistently as we must.
After all — journalists aren’t merely storytellers — they’re the only job mentioned by name in the Constitution. THEIR stories are the last check on power. If they “tell them wrong”, we’re screwed.
What NBC’s Savannah Guthrie did – interviewing young Nick Sandmann — was the exact opposite of storytelling. She became the person to whom Nick Sandmann told his story — as in SHE suspended all belief in order to accept what he said as truth. That she walked away — having allowed a clearly faulty version of the story to stand shouts at us: Nick Sandmann became the styoryteller & an American news outlet became the passive listener to that story.
Fail, fail, fail, FAIL.
From one storyteller to another, NBC News – You SUCK at your job. Find other work more suitable to your skills such as they are.
Perhaps Walmart is looking for greeters. Give em a call. Please.