Defining a new strength-based storytelling genre

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.34.24 PM.pngThe media has a profound impact on the way we see the world, how we interpret news events, and the way we respond to these events. This is especially true in the wake of natural disasters, shootings, bombings, and other tragedies.

The media tells us what happened, how many homes were devastated, who was killed or injured — all the facts that keep us informed. These stories are important, but they’re often confined to tragedy, despair and loss.

As days and weeks pass, the media move on to new stories, often neglecting to tell the “what’s possible?” stories about how the people and communities affected by these tragedies are coping and what they’re learning. We hear these types of stories on one-year anniversaries, but they’re not an ongoing part of the media’s coverage the way that the “what happened?” stories are. A growing body of research is confirming what many have long suspected — that a steady diet of trauma and disaster triggers stress, fear and trauma in those consuming the stories.

What if the news media covered stories of recovery and resilience as much as they cover stories about devastation and despair?

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Washington Post narrative puts focus on survivor, not offender, of mass shooting

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When I think about the recent attacks in San Bernardino and the Planned Parenthood clinic, I can quickly recall the names and photos of the offenders. But I couldn’t tell you the names of the victims and survivors. This is probably true for many news consumers — partly because the media tends to focus more on offenders than on victims.

This is slowly beginning to change, thanks to efforts such as the “No Notoriety” campaign, which Tom and Caren Teves started after their son was killed in the Aurora theater shootings. The Teves say they want less coverage of offenders and more coverage of those affected by mass shootings.

A new Washington Post story, “A Survivor’s Life,” stands out for this reason. The longform narrative focuses on 16-year-old survivor Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, who was shot in the back during the Umpqua Community College mass shooting two months ago.

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Announcing ivoh’s 2016 Restorative Narrative Fellows

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Images & Voices of Hope is happy to announce that we have selected the fellows for our 2016 Restorative Narrative Fellowship.

Nearly 100 people applied for the fellowship, with just four spots available. The fellows we selected — Dan Archer, Christa Hillstrom, Heidi Shin, and Moses Shumow — showed a deep understanding of Restorative Narrative and pitched projects that we believe will help deepen our collective understanding of this genre.

Each fellow will each be given a $2,500 stipend to spend six months telling Restorative Narratives in various communities. Their projects will focus on a variety of topics: the Colombian conflict; sex abuse among Native American women in the Pacific Northwest; refugees who are working through “double trauma” and finding resilience in Boston; and stories of restoration and renewal in a Miami neighborhood that is often defined by a single narrative about poverty and crime.

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The case for Restorative Narratives

This story was originally published in Kosmos Journal.

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The phrase ‘future of journalism’ is often uttered in media circles these days—and understandably so. Everyone wants to learn how to save parts of the industry that are struggling financially, and they’re attempting to figure out how to best prepare themselves and their news organizations for the years ahead.

To prepare for the future, many news organizations have experimented with innovative ways of telling stories—through compelling interactive graphics, impressive video packages, and more. Much of the innovation in media these days revolves around technology. This is important and a step in the right direction, but we also need to be thinking about innovation in terms of the types of stories we tell.

At Images & Voices of Hope (ivoh), a media-related nonprofit, we’ve been developing a genre called Restorative Narrative—stories that show how people and communities are making meaningful progression from despair to resilience. Restorative Narratives explore despair and address difficult truths, but they also move the storyline forward by showing how the affected people and communities are rebuilding and, in some cases, recovering. In doing so, these narratives highlight signs of renewal and resilience.

In many ways, Restorative Narratives offer a more holistic and balanced approach to media coverage. We’re not saying, “don’t tell stories about tragedies, problems, and crimes.” We’re saying, “tell these stories, but don’t stop there.” The story doesn’t end when the last shot is fired or when the tornado leaves town; in many ways, it’s just beginning.

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In the aftermath of tragedy, lay the groundwork for Restorative Narrative

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.35.34 PMJournalists worldwide are working around the clock telling stories about the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 130 people in Paris.

In the aftermath of such a massive tragedy, it’s too soon to start identifying Restorative Narratives; it’s still too raw, too recent for authentic stories of resilience to emerge. Restorative Narratives take a deep dive into a person’s or community’s meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience. Headlines about people looking for hope in Paris, or photos of people wearing “I love Paris” shirts aren’t Restorative Narratives.

This is the time to lay the groundwork for what could become a Restorative Narrative later on. This is the time to practice good journalism — to tell the story of what happened and to connect with the people who were affected by letting them know you genuinely want to tell their story.

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WBUR’s Kind World series shows power of small acts of kindness

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When he started his job as a social media producer at WBUR, Nate Goldman had negative news fatigue. A lot of us have probably experienced it: the feeling that news stories are too heavy and make the world seem cold and callous.

Goldman saw stories about violence, crime and despair on news sites. But while on social networks, he came across different stories — about small acts of kindness people had experienced. Many people on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit were not only sharing these stories but having lively conversations about them.

“It signaled to me that there was a real appetite for that kind of stuff,” Goldman said by phone.

Inspired by what he saw, Goldman set out to create a series that would highlight how small acts of kindness can profoundly affect people’s lives.

He started asking people on social media to talk about their encounters with kindness. He got several responses, interviewed a few people, and then produced some audio pieces as a proof of concept. His editor, John Davidow, liked the idea and encouraged him to pursue it.

From there, Goldman created a “Kind World” Tumblr in July 2012. It has since gained a lot of attention from readers — so much so that WBUR created an accompanying on-air series, which just finished up last week. All of the Kind World stories set out to answer the same question: “What is it that makes someone stop and help a stranger in need?”

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Upworthy’s most popular stories show desire for uplifting, serious content

Research shows that people are increasingly sharing upbeat content on social networks. But “upbeat,” it turns out, doesn’t necessarily mean “happy-go-lucky” in the world of social media sharing.

Upworthy, a site that publishes uplifting content and generates millions of social shares, found that some of its most popular stories in 2013 were about heavy topics like economic inequality, domestic violence, global health and the media’s portrayal of women.

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Drawbacks of some upbeat stories that get shared, go viral

Dictionary definition of "Truth"With the emergence of sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy, there’s been an interesting shift in the type of content people want to share. Recent research shows that people now gravitate toward — and share — upbeat stories. Much of this has to do with social media.

Time Magazine’s Eliana Dockterman wrote in August:

Researchers are discovering that people want to create positive images of themselves online by sharing upbeat stories. And with more people turning to Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world, news stories may need to cheer up in order to court an audience. If social is the future of media, then optimistic stories might be media’s future.

Jane McGonigal explains how video games can aid the healing process

VideogamesNamed one of the top six “insanely popular TED talks from the past year,” Jane McGonigal‘s talk shows how video games make people better.

Early on, she poses the question: When we are on our deathbeds, will we regret the time we spent playing games? Some people might say yes, thinking video games are a waste of time. But game designer McGonigal, who has done extensive research on gaming, says games are a powerful tool for healing.

She quoted a report in which hospice workers shared the top five regrets that people on their deathbeds express. They were …

Why there’s reason to be optimistic about journalism’s future

????????????????In recent years, there have been countless stories about layoffs and budget cuts at news organizations, making it seem like the future of journalism is bleak. As 2013 drew to a close, though, I was struck by how many articles painted a more optimistic picture of journalism’s future.

Caroline Little, CEO CEO of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), says despite what cynics say, the future of newspapers is bright. In an article published Friday, she shared some NAA research.