Crafting a story for news

Crafting a story combines the event and the manner in which you tell it

Our longest module in PG Journalism is The Craft of Storytelling, taught by Sachin Kalbag who has 23 years of experience which includes being editor of The Hindu’s Mumbai edition and The Hindustan Times.

In one of his earliest classes, he explained how craft is both the art and technique of conveying a narrative in a compelling and engaging way. Whether it is literature, film, theater, oral traditions, and even everyday communication, it is using craft as a versatile and powerful tool that helps storytellers to entertain, inform, and connect with others.

When doing a story, we must be clear about the distinction between the “Event” and the “Story”. Understanding this is fundamental to good storytelling. Mr. Kalbag used a global event like the bombing of the World Trade Centre buildings in September 2001 to help us understand this concept. In particular, he took the iconic picture shot by photographer Richard Drew, titled Falling Man, to show us how this became, and continues to be, an unforgettable story.

Falling Man has become an event in itself, continuously resurrected and reinterpreted in many ways.  Who was he, for example? Did he fall or did he jump? What do his clothes say about him? Why does he look almost relaxed in the estimated ten seconds it took for him to die?

Every year around the anniversary of what has now come to be known as 9/11, usually Falling Man makes an appearance, and stories are crafted around him, making this a poignant way to honor the memory of 9/11 and its victims while offering new perspectives and reflections.

For me, this concept translated into reality when doing a story on Lalbagcharaja. The “Event” is Ganesh Chaturthi, the “Story” is what we make of it for this year, given the current situation. When we went to collect data, we thought we would be doing just an ordinary story with the usual points of discussion – statue, how high, how expensive, theme, etc. While talking to the President of the Mahamandal, we got the idea for another story which we would tell from our perspective translated into the news article “90 Years of Devotion: Lalbaugcha Raja Remembers Nitin Desai, Gets Ready for Grand Celebration”.

Readers will remember the tragedy of Nitin Desai, Indian art director, production designer, and film and television producer. On August 2, he was found dead in his studio in Karjat. The cause of the death was suicide. This year the pandal of Lalbaughcha Raja is being seen as a tribute to the late Nitin Desai.

Story and Event have come together for me in an unforgettable way.

Mariyam Yasin Shaikh
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