Narrative over Facts

Last week Ben Thompson recommended that anyone who enjoyed his three-part series on the future of news and newspapers check out Nieman Journalism Lab’s latest report on the state of news media in 2014. For anyone interested, here’s the link: New technology, new money, new newsrooms, old questions: The State of the News Media in 2014; at the time, I was: I promptly saved the essay to Instapaper and eagerly awaited reading it. However, a little more than a week later, I got through the first two paragraphs before completely losing interest. Yet, ten days prior I read more than three thousand words on this subject, spread across three different articles. What changed?

After a bit of thought, it came to me: whereas Ben presented the former in the form of a narrative, Justin Ellis — writing for Nieman Journalism Lab — created the latter more akin to a collection of facts than an enjoyable body of prose. Some more consideration revealed that this was not unique to these two writers: although I find the heavily analytics-based AnandTech reviews of Apple’s latest devices very interesting, I take a lot of joy in reading more qualitative pieces from people like John Gruber, for example. Each sub-genre has its place in tech journalism, but I, for one, prefer writers who can spin a narrative out of the same set of facts other writers use to piece together dry reports. That, to me, is what separates good writers from the great ones.