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Words were first spoken, and stories of “real truth” with them

Posted by: | September 11, 2012 | No Comment |

It has been argued in several circles of journalism that journalists are storytellers. The evidence that propels journalists as storytellers comes to us from as far ago as the fifth century B.C. It was in that time that rhetoric was born, where the well respected citizens were relied on to tell the truth of their ownership of a certain olive grove, and the best story won.

Rhetoric, and journalism, after the use of all their devices, both reach their audience as a story. Rhetoric is different only in that its main purpose is to persuade. It is heard as a story and it falls heavily on the listener to interpret the central idea. But isn’t that what we do as journalists now? Of course we use the written word, but don’t we have to shape that written word into a story that, while containing the truth, persuades our listener to care, and to continue reading?

Journalists will deny their position as storytellers. But why? We’ve already discovered in class that the first news came to us in the form of a story, so why argue against a basic tenet? A good journalist knows that the truth is all that matters, but how would they present the truth and all of its characteristics without first telling a story?

Maybe Plato put it best when he complained that rhetoric gives the impression of truth, rather than the truth itself. The “real truth,” then, has always had a home in good journalism, and has never been in question.

As journalists, we have always been storytellers. What has always separated us from other storytellers is a curiosity and desire to report the facts as they unfold in the world we live in, so that our audience might have a better chance in it.

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