Media and journalism issues

How to become an effective digital storyteller

How to become an effective digital storyteller
‘Storytelling in the digital age is all about public interest, if you’re taking the route of journalism,’ says Rappler Executive Editor Glenda Gloria

In the second leg of the online seminar-workshop for student journalists “Kalookan Para sa Kampus Midya​” on Saturday, March 27, Rappler Executive Editor Glenda Gloria talked about storytelling in the digital age. 

“Ten years ago, we thought social media was all for social good,” Gloria said, since it connected families to each other and that it became a vehicle for social activism. “It was seen as a very positive tool not just for journalism but for public advocacy.”

But as years went by, more online platforms and applications have emerged and have caused information overload. Gloria said this has also “weaponized the internet,” and cited the proliferation of disinformation in different social media platforms, particularly Facebook and YouTube.

“The online world has been used to demonize not just journalism, but also to introduce a lot of slogans that were attached to the kind of reporting that Filipino journalists do, such as ‘fake news,’ we (media) are ‘liars,’ we are ‘bitches,’ as far as some of the troll armies are concerned. And so social media has become such a battlefield,” Gloria said. 

This evolution of social media platforms in the digital age comes as a challenge to journalists and storytellers.

“You need to accept that and understand because that impacts the story judgment that you will make as a storyteller. It impacts the kind of stories that come out of your news feed, and therefore shape the kind of opinion that you have,” Gloria said.

What makes a digital storyteller effective? Gloria shared 6 things:

1. Stay curious

“The good digital storyteller will always be the curious storyteller,” Gloria said. Whenever there is something that you think is worth pursuing, it’s important to ask these two questions constantly: why and what.

“But never assume,” Gloria added.

2. Get real

Digital storytellers have social media in their arsenal, but Gloria said that it is important to keep in mind that social media is not the entire reality. She pointed out that the things we see on social media are curated and are based on the algorithms set by the platforms.

“So how do you get real? You get real by talking to real people…. You get real by immersing yourself in the sectors you are most passionate about,” Gloria said.

3. Remember that it is not about you

When storytellers get real, they understand and accept that digital storytelling is not about themselves.

“It is not about you getting ahead. Digital storytelling is not about you getting famous instantly through exponential growth of your pages or followers. Storytelling in the digital age is all about public interest, if you’re taking the route of journalism,” Gloria said.

Acknowledging this helps storytellers write stories that matter to the public, instead of looking at issues that only a few people care about.

4. Show, not tell

“The perfect story is the story that shows, not tells,” Gloria said. This means that regardless of the format, whether it’s a text story or a simple picture story, it’s important to be able to show what happens and to be able to bring the audience to that event.

“Because showing really evokes emotions, and emotions really help inform decisions,” Gloria added.

5. Be fast and furious

For storytellers in the digital age, the basic expectation is that they are quick. Gloria explained this is because they are able to use tools and utilize them to do a quick turnaround of stories.

But more than being fast, she said digital storytellers should also be furious.

“You ought to be furious, you ought to have a low boiling point of rage for things that do not work, governments that do not govern, systems that fail you, people who are not accountable, government officials who misuse govt funds,” she said.

6. Ask yourself: What are your values?

The last requirement in becoming an effective digital storyteller, but certainly not the least, is reminding yourself what your values are. Do you tell stories to make yourself look good, or do you write to change the world for the better?

“Ultimately it is the values of the digital storyteller that will make him/her stand out and motivate him/her to really pursue the stories worth pursuing,” Gloria said.

The online seminar-workshop was organized by the Caloocan Young Leaders Initiative with MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, as a partner for the event. The first part took place on March 20. –