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"Writing Powerful Narratives," held at the Reynolds Journalism Institute March 4, 2013, featured several speakers throughout the day who talked about reporting and writing long-form nonfiction.

One of the speakers was Missouri School of Journalism alumnus Walt Harrington. The award-winning veteran journalist spent nearly 15 years writing for the Washington Post Magazine and is dedicated to a career of writing literary journalism stories and books. Like many lectures he gives as a journalism professor, his speech on journalism ethics should be the compass for both students and professionals.

Walt HarringtonWalt Harrington, author, editor and professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lectured about the importance of ethics based on his long-time experience in journalism. He believes that accuracy is not only about a journalist’s individual credibility, but the reputation of the publication, the industry and our society. His key takeaways:

  1. Accuracy wins. The essence of truth is based on literal truth. It is important to question what we believe to better approach and present the documentary reality.
  2. We are the tellers of stories. Unlike fiction, the elements of journalism are not only about the plot, character and scene, but the vision of the many nuances of real life.
  3. Nothing is wrong about the novelist’s eye. It should help us better touch, see and feel the truth. Chronicling and illuminating are more important than just telling the story.
  4. Explore the interior world. Literary journalism can reveal the inner workings of human experience by honoring the facts of human emotions, struggle, hope, confusion and wisdom.
  5. The hard challenge is to understand the meaning. Beyond avoiding unconscious mistakes, the hard work of a narrative journalist is to write stories that are accurate to the characters and teach the readers some important things about themselves.

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"Writing Powerful Narratives," was sponsored by Meredith Corporation, Missouri School of Journalism's Magazine Faculty and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The workshop was coordinated by John Fennell, an associate professor and a Meredith Chair in service journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Miranda Zhang  
 
Graduate assistant



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