Storytelling Renaissance, Sort Of

by bicyclemark 0 Comments
Storytelling Renaissance, Sort Of
photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr
photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr

photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr

The word storytelling seems to pop up all over the place over the past year.  A quick glance at cultural events in your community and projects being carried out by NGO’s (such as our very own hardworking Small World News) and you are sure to see the word storytelling.  Storytelling as an art, a hobby, an activity to bring people together, to share experiences and culture; it’s this thing that has always been there, for generations, and might just be having a bit of a renaissance in the context of on and offline culture.

I’m often involved in discussions or projects related to the world of online story telling.  Truth be told, I do love a good story, and I do believe it is part of why I love to record other people’s words. By and large it must be a big benefit for all of us now and for future generations, that in 2013 storytelling got hip!

photo by giulia.forsythe /flickr

photo by giulia.forsythe /flickr

Despite the fact that it is probably good for our collective health and I myself am involved in teaching and promoting story telling online, I am also partly skeptical of all the noise surrounding the word. Storytelling for the sake of sharing with the world and bringing us closer together- yes! Surely it does matter how you present something, if the audience can understand it, follow it, and to some extent relate somehow. But storytelling that is focused on entertaining and manufacturing emotional high’s and low’s, as a journalist at heart, that is not what I am about. Of course I like a good story and have certainly exaggerated my way through some tales for the sake of a big smile or a “huh.. wow.. that’s amazing” reaction.  I too love the stories coming out of radio projects like This American Life, Radio Lab, or Snap Judgement.  But if indeed I am a storyteller and I’m busy teaching means of better telling their stories, I would rather inspire people to not try to entertain but rather – tell the truth.

Choose to record the words of a person without chopping up the audio or video in an effort to create an emotional moment. Films do that. Radio plays do that. Even the guy or gal at the bar on a Friday night does that. But we who genuinely want to bring stories of real lives and real issues from one part of the world to another, our priority should not be to produce “a story” that will captivate and move an audience, we should let the truth do that.  And if the truth isn’t enough to get someone’s attention, if the reality of suffering or triumph from some corner of the globe isn’t enough to compel an audience to listen, at some level, I say- so be it- life is not always entertaining or captivating. Sometimes life is just sad or wonderful or something in between. It is not a made for tv drama, and there are still many of us out there that don’t need to be entertained before we learn something new.

Lizz Winstead: Political Windsurfing While Droning Your Neighbor

by bicyclemark 6 Comments
Lizz Winstead: Political Windsurfing While Droning Your Neighbor

LizzWinsteadYou can’t windsurf, because that would be elitist. But, if you’re the American president, you can drive around your ranch in a golf cart shooting guns, because people can relate to that.  As comedian and writer Lizz Winstead explains it, sometimes there is no debate possible if we don’t agree on fundamental and proven facts.  Over the past few months Lizz has been promoting her book “Lizz Free or Die” and travelling around the United States to see what people are doing and what they think about politics or life in general. Having written for several memorable television programs which includes having co-created The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Lizz can tell you thing or two about what is good and what is bad about politics and media in the United States.

By chance, I ran into her at a conference in Sweden earlier this month and spent a few afternoons having excellent discussions, such as this one featured in today’s podcast.

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

I’ve learned that Tunisia has a fantastic tradition, especially since the Uprising* of 2011, of cartoons with attitude. Nadia Khiari’s “Willis from Tunis” was born from the new freedom to express yourself and criticise things in public and he has wasted no time in becoming a recognized symbol and fearless critic of politics, culture, and Tunisian society in general. But behind the crazy cat there is an even cooler person, a Nadia that knows what she wants out of life and for her country, and since waking up from being a self proclaimed “zombie under the dictatorship”, she is now determined to never stop living her dream – making cartoons.

(Audio features Chris Lydon asking the questions, and me behind the scenes)

* I have decided for myself, with the help of many wise friends, to stop calling it a revolution or a spring, and start calling it an upheaval or uprising.

How to See and Hear Egypt

How to See and Hear Egypt

Since the revolution began in 2011, many a foreign journalist has gone to Egypt filled with good intentions and enthusiasm. And while some have done interesting or inspiring work, there are still many in the international media that consistently get half the story or hardly any of it and go home proclaiming that they know what’s what.

With our upcoming journey to Tunisia and Egypt, our challenge is to get past those tendencies and see beyond our own natural limitations. To best do that, we turn to our Egyptian friends in-country and from the diaspora, and ask about their experiences and what they most wish journalists would take note of and stay open to while doing their work.

Today on the podcast I speak with a new friend of the program, herself an Egyptian living abroad and living-breathing the revolution everyday even if she isn’t on the streets or in the square; Hanna Yousef is my special guest as part of a conversation to learn her beautiful story and ask what advice she would give to a outsider-journalist like myself, heading to her beloved country for the first time, in search of stories. In many ways this is the preparatory conversation that every journalist should have yet we rarely get to hear as its considered unworthy for your ears; too candid and imperfect. exactly the type of conversation that makes me love podcasting.