Register Now

The heartbeat in complex stories: how to "delight your audience"

Suzie Lechtenberg, the executive producer of Radiolab, gave the audience asix steps to help find the heartbeat of a story and prevent it from being lost in its complexity.

 

Journalists do their investigations step by step. Sometimes, one of the steps can be harder than the next and their work becomes a mess.

First of all, Suzie Lechtenberg encouraged journalists to try to understand where the pulse of the story is. This means you have to find a central or a few central characters to focus on and get close enough to understand the situation. Afterwards, what matters is to make a scene and get into your character’s head, as in you need to have your audience feeling like they are in that place with you and know what drives your subject’s actions. 

To set the scene  in one of her reports about the Supreme Court of the United States, Suzie brought a microphone with her into one of the courtrooms and described what she saw, so she could access the memory of it later. 

What will people remember at the end of the story? “You can tell important narratives about Guantanamo, but I guarantee that what your audience is going to remember is the weird thing about the story”, said Suzie. That is why she challenges herself to answer the question “Where is the weird?” in every project.

Moreover, telling complicated tales means you must “simplify, simplify, simplify”. Suzie suggested: tell your friend the story you are reporting on so you can find things to improve. And if you think your audience will find it too complicated, simply write a song

The goal is to deliver the best and the most simple story to the public in an entertaining way: “If you delight yourself and if you delight your colleagues, you’re certainly going to delight your audience as well”, Suzie explained.

 

Written by Beatriz Valente and Gonçalo Martins