The Nieman Foundation augmented its Narrative Digest website in October 2009 by launching Nieman Storyboard
, to cover the intersection of storytelling and news across media. We eventually folded the Digest into Storyboard, which continues to be the nation’s foremost publication dedicated exclusively to narrative journalism. Our primary mission is to highlight stellar examples of the craft and in 2011 we furthered that goal by adding features including:
- Viewfinder, a video storytelling column by the New York Times’ Sean Patrick Farrell. In his early work, Farrell has dissected examples of successful video journalism, argued for the need for more narration in video narrative and explained how, and why, with the democratization of equipment and technology, any journalist can become a video storyteller.
- Line-by-line annotations of particular pieces of storytelling by acclaimed narrative writers such as Pulitzer winner Amy Ellis Nutt (NF’05), the Tampa Bay Times’ Michael Kruse and narrative legend Jon Franklin, who won the inaugural Pulitzer in feature writing. The writers engage at the text level with questions about their reporting, writing and editing choices. This granular version of “how I did the story” is on its third installment and has been popular with readers.
- Social media metrics. As we move toward more and better ways to engage and expand our audience, we want to see how well we’re connecting with others. Adding Twitter and Facebook tabs allowed our readers to easily share the work they like and suggest the posts they found most interesting and useful. Next year, we hope to develop more dynamic ways to interact with our readers.
- A Nieman Storyboard newsletter. Instead of sending one static email highlighting recent content, we now send our thousands of subscribers around the world a designed newsletter that’s more visually compelling and comprehensive and includes links to other Nieman publications.
- “Why’s this so good?” continues to grow, and brought contributions last year from some of the most talented and well-known names in print and online journalism, including Pam Colloff, Wesley Morris, Eli Sanders, Adam Penenberg, Ann Friedman, Ben Yagoda and Jacqui Banaszynski. We’ve now published 68 installments wherein a guest writer explains what makes a favorite piece of storytelling work. Some of the pieces are classic narratives, while others contain storytelling elements applicable to narrative. Our contributors, including National Magazine Award and Pulitzer winners, have covered the work of Malcolm Gladwell, Joan Didion, Michael Paterniti, Calvin Trillin, Gay Talese, Nora Ephron, John Jeremiah Sullivan and dozens more, to overwhelmingly positive response. We’ve expanded the model from print to radio, and plan to explore photojournalism and video narratives as well.
We’ve continued to explore digital storytelling and emerging platforms by covering the advantages and ethical boundaries of comics journalism and the multimedia potential of tablet-centric publishers such as The Atavist. We encouraged reader participation by inviting well-known writers and academics to guest-curate our popular Notable Narrative series and lead Q&A’s with the authors. MIT professor Tom Levenson
kicked us off with a piece by The Atlantic
’s Ta-Nehisi Coates. Through our Narrative Speaker Series
, run through the Nieman Foundation’s Narrative Writing program, we covered Lippmann House visits by acclaimed guests including Buzz Bissinger (NF ’86), The Atavist’s Evan Ratliff, and National Magazine Award winner Luke Dittrich, of Esquire
Storyboard’s presence is spreading. We’ve added nearly 1,500 Twitter followers since April 1, and nearly 500 “likes” on Facebook and our roster of contributors continues to expand. University journalism departments and writing programs use Storyboard to develop or augment their narrative tracks and, via our coverage, to “attend” narrative conferences from Texas to Romania. In the coming year, we look forward to continuing to grow these and other storytelling initiatives and to better tie Storyboard to the Nieman Foundation’s seminar on narrative writing.
Editor, Nieman Storyboard
1997 Nieman Fellow