How to tell true stories

After reading four essays written by Jacqui Banaszynski, Gay Talese, David Halberstam and Katherine Boo, I’ve learned how important narrative journalism is.


Jacqui Banaszynski

Banaszynski defined story as our prayers, parables, history, music and soul in her essay “Stories Matter.” I was fascinated by her short narration about her trip to Ethiopian villages. Her scene was very emotional and hopeless. Yet her explanations about stories flowed really well.

“Stories are our soul. Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters. IT matters that you do it as if that’s all there is.”

– Jaqui Banasznski

Talese, a great narrative journalist from the 60s, encouraged me to be more curious. Also, it inspired me to be always curious and keep going at the subject when Boo’s friend at the “Chicago Tribune” said “Curiosity is a muscle. The more you use it, the more it can do.”

As an intern at the Times Union, I sometimes struggle to find my boundary with interviewees. “Is my question bother them?” I always ask myself before I ask. One day, my editor told me as a journalist I must not be afraid to ask questions. The harder the questions are, the more my readers would benefit. I must expand my horizons when I interview.

Gay Talese

Gay Talese

Also, Talese advised to write with respect. Because it is “a way to write truth that is not insulting.  If I respect my subject, I will be close to telling a true story.

Sometimes I feel like I have too many ideas to write about things. Halberstam said the idea and the concept is critical to narrative journalism. “Once you have the idea, it just flows out,” said Halberstam.

Also, he made a great point, the more people I speak to, I will be able to tell a true story. It is really easy to get lazy with interviewing skills. The more views of any subject that you get, the better.

In order to close to the truth, all my interviews from now on will end with this. “Who else should I see?”