Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stories Soar Through Personal Connections

As I work with young reporters in the journalism program at Linn-Benton Community College, one of the things I stress is honing the ability to tell a good story. I find among the best news and feature stories are ones that not only focus on a compelling person or topic, but also engage us because the writer has a personal connection to the subject.

From the first words of "How a Professor Taught Me to Consult My Stomach," I was captivated by Barbara Bradley Hagarty's admiration for her college professor, Dr. Stocking:
I remember sitting in Shakespeare class, basking in my good luck. The wait list was nearly 100 people, but here I was, a new student at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., watching the legendary Fred Stocking in action. In 1979, Dr. Stocking was a year shy of retirement, an icon to four decades of students in this small college in the Berkshires. He was lean and meticulous, with a bow tie and thick white hair, and he lived Shakespeare — doting on Puck, thundering through Hamlet, and lifting our gaze from the crass pursuit of A's to the beauty of weathered truths.

He encouraged me to make writing my career, and then unwittingly shaped that career. ...
What a wonderful picture Hagarty creates. Of course, this being the age of new media, this NPR story online is accompanied by a portrait of the professor and the audio version features him speaking as well as singing.

Yes, I'm a softy for features like this one, and the ending doesn't disappoint. You might want to grab a Kleenex.

Some of my students have achieved similar success weaving their personal connections to their subject into their writing. One student wrote about an experience at a drug rehab center for teens, while another regular writes about family, faith, politics and other topics on his blog.

Their writing succeeds because they didn't settle for sharing "just the facts." Instead we get to spend a few moments in their shoes, experiencing life through somebody else's senses.

As a new term approaches, I'm looking forward to working among another group of students with a lifetime of stories to begin sharing.


1 comment:

Allan said...

What a great post Rob. I too am a softy for great stories like this. My high school English teacher, Ms. Hadley had the same effect on me. She too retired not long after I graduated. She instilled a love for the written word in me. More importantly, she was an example of how to live life with gusto!

Thanks for coming by at the SAMBA Blog. I noticed my latest post on your sidebar? Is that some automated widget or do you curate that sidebar?