The power of details: digging into humanity with a news report
Author:Li Yunzhen Date:Nov 29, 2016 Clicks:

An impressive news report covers not only the news itself, but also peoples’ feelings; a competent journalist records both basic truth and the humanity behind the event with no hypocrisy. An experience-sharing lecture named how to dig into humanity with a news report, was held in the evening of Nov. 5th by two professional presswomen Zhang Han and Zhu Liudi. Both of them were former senior journalists for Beijing News. As the current chief editors for Daily People, a newly founded WeChat official account, Mrs. Zhang and Mrs. Zhu gave presentations on their unique experiences in news writing.

Details determine your article’s depth

Digging into an event or news in detail may be of no importance to most rookies, but as these fresh journalists grow up, they would understand that it is the details that distinguish their reports from the ordinary ones.” Mrs. Zhang started her presentation with the importance of details. She presented several examples to illustrate just how important details were and how to dig into them.

Zhang Han talking about her experience on digging into details

I was once writing an article about cornea donations when I heard from an organ donation coordinator that after the transplant surgery, the donor’s family members were allowed to meet with the receiver, but only once, and they don’t talk to each othe. The donor’s family would just take a look at the receiver’s eyes under the microscope to verify that the cornea belonged to their dear one.” But this coordinator didn’t tell Mrs. Zhang what the cornea would look like under the microscope. Her curiosity caused her to ask several coordinators and even the donor’s family; finally she got the answer. “A thin dark-bluish suture, which looks like a twined nylon wire. It can be faintly seen through the microscope; this was evidence of the operation.” This vivid description details the sorrowful reality of organ donation, which is worthier than a thousand words.

The second example she gave was on Yao Jiaxin’s hand. Yao Jiaxin was a merciless murderer who stabbed an innocent passerby with a fruit knife. Yao killed that young woman just because he found her still alive after he knocked her down. “As Yao majored in piano performance, his hands ought to be soft and gentle, but he stabbed a passenger 8 times with the same hands. Therefore, I realized that his hand should be an essential imagery in my article. I interviewed his friends and classmates; eventually they told me that Yao used to apply a thick layer of cream to protect his hands every day. I put this part in the beginning of the article, because I deem that such imagery detail is significant to a story; when you mention such detail in the beginning, it echoes in readers’ mind and grasps their attention.”

Telling stories in a different way

The next lecturer was Zhu Liudi. She graduated from Wuhan University in 2005, and was once Zhang Han’s apprentice. She shared the same value on news writing as Zhang Han. Much like journalist Oriana Fallaci, they both prefer giving prominence to details in figure creation and characterization over just asking sharp questions. In Zhu Liudi’s view, a story is best told in an acceptable way, instead of a cool crisp tone. 

Zhu Liudi sharing her stories

What can I deliver to readers through my reports? Take ‘Pan Xiaomei’s last subway’ for instance, which is precisely a reflection of the daily life of an inconspicuous person, who lived a mostly ordinary life but died a dramatic death.” The essay Zhu Liudi quoted here was a tragedy that happened in Beijing nearly 2 years ago. When Pan Xiaomei finished her work and waited for the subway as usual, she got caught between the platform screen door and the subway door. This horrible accident took her life in a few seconds.  

Pan was a marginalized person. Born in a small village in Hebei province, she had no access to higher education, and only completed primary school before moving to Beijing to struggle for life. She used to be a peasant, a waitress and a cell phone reseller. Pan represented the underprivileged population that is always neglected by us. I tried to characterize her by describing several different social roles she once played.

The story was strung together by these social roles: the cell phone reseller at Gongzhu Fen (‘Princess’s Tomb’, a tourist spot in Beijing), the daughter of Manlan Gou (her village’s name), the single mom in Tiantong Yuan (a neighborhood in Beijing, where Pan had lived), the passenger at Huixin West St. (the subway station where Pan died), and even as a hollowed body in the last chapter titled ‘backing home’.” Zhu developed the story through these clues; she still made Pan a humble figure, but with a more vivid and realistic tone, like a readers’ neighbor or someone they pass by on the street. That is the power of detailed description and characterization.

Making figure interview is like peeling an onion

Peeling the onion is an autobiographical work by German Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass. In this book, he admitted his history of being recruited into the Waffen-SS.  He reflected back through his past as though he was peeling an onion, layer by layer until he reached the deepest part in his heart. This “peeling back the layers” method is adopted by Zhang Han and Zhu Liudi to manage their WeChat official account, the Daily People.

 

Zhang Han (left) and Zhu Liudi answering questions

The first arrangement of an event is generally the most important and substantive part of a news report. The journalism term ‘first arrangement’ means the first and quickest report of an event.” Zhu Liudi said. She also expressed regret for Pan Xiaomei’s report, “the first arrangement of that event should have been the reason the tragedy happened, instead of whom it happened to. But due to many complicated barriers, we failed to get such information from interviews, so I turned to the daily life of Pan.”

Keep peeling layers until the last inch.” Zhang Han summarized three key qualities of a journalist, which are the abilities to judge, make breakthroughs and dig into details. “The last inch of detail is the point where you can stop your questions.” Zhang Han explained. She illustrated this with her essay, ‘the rain in autumn’.

It was about a mudslide in a small village in Yunnan. Kids were having a lesson when it suddenly happened. The mudslide submerged the whole school and half of the pupils were unfortunately killed. I was wondering which text they were studying at that moment, but the teacher was too frightened to recall anything from that lesson. Luckily one of the pupils told me the text was ‘the rain in autumn’. I was inexpressibly astonished as the village suffered from continuous rainy days before the mudslide, and it was also autumn back then. So I made ‘the rain in autumn’ my essay title. This coincidence was the most touching part of that essay.”

 

(Photo by Guo Yutong, edited by Tang yedan, Zheng Xinnian, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)

An impressive news report covers not only the news itself, but also peoples’ feelings; a competent journalist records both basic truth and the humanity behind the event with no hypocrisy. An experience-sharing lecture named how to dig into humanity with a news report, was held in the evening of Nov. 5th by two professional presswomen Zhang Han and Zhu Liudi. Both of them were former senior journalists for Beijing News. As the current chief editors for Daily People, a newly founded WeChat official account, Mrs. Zhang and Mrs. Zhu gave presentations on their unique experiences in news writing.

Details determine your article’s depth

Digging into an event or news in detail may be of no importance to most rookies, but as these fresh journalists grow up, they would understand that it is the details that distinguish their reports from the ordinary ones.” Mrs. Zhang started her presentation with the importance of details. She presented several examples to illustrate just how important details were and how to dig into them.

Zhang Han talking about her experience on digging into details

I was once writing an article about cornea donations when I heard from an organ donation coordinator that after the transplant surgery, the donor’s family members were allowed to meet with the receiver, but only once, and they don’t talk to each othe. The donor’s family would just take a look at the receiver’s eyes under the microscope to verify that the cornea belonged to their dear one.” But this coordinator didn’t tell Mrs. Zhang what the cornea would look like under the microscope. Her curiosity caused her to ask several coordinators and even the donor’s family; finally she got the answer. “A thin dark-bluish suture, which looks like a twined nylon wire. It can be faintly seen through the microscope; this was evidence of the operation.” This vivid description details the sorrowful reality of organ donation, which is worthier than a thousand words.

The second example she gave was on Yao Jiaxin’s hand. Yao Jiaxin was a merciless murderer who stabbed an innocent passerby with a fruit knife. Yao killed that young woman just because he found her still alive after he knocked her down. “As Yao majored in piano performance, his hands ought to be soft and gentle, but he stabbed a passenger 8 times with the same hands. Therefore, I realized that his hand should be an essential imagery in my article. I interviewed his friends and classmates; eventually they told me that Yao used to apply a thick layer of cream to protect his hands every day. I put this part in the beginning of the article, because I deem that such imagery detail is significant to a story; when you mention such detail in the beginning, it echoes in readers’ mind and grasps their attention.”

Telling stories in a different way

The next lecturer was Zhu Liudi. She graduated from Wuhan University in 2005, and was once Zhang Han’s apprentice. She shared the same value on news writing as Zhang Han. Much like journalist Oriana Fallaci, they both prefer giving prominence to details in figure creation and characterization over just asking sharp questions. In Zhu Liudi’s view, a story is best told in an acceptable way, instead of a cool crisp tone. 

Zhu Liudi sharing her stories

What can I deliver to readers through my reports? Take ‘Pan Xiaomei’s last subway’ for instance, which is precisely a reflection of the daily life of an inconspicuous person, who lived a mostly ordinary life but died a dramatic death.” The essay Zhu Liudi quoted here was a tragedy that happened in Beijing nearly 2 years ago. When Pan Xiaomei finished her work and waited for the subway as usual, she got caught between the platform screen door and the subway door. This horrible accident took her life in a few seconds.  

Pan was a marginalized person. Born in a small village in Hebei province, she had no access to higher education, and only completed primary school before moving to Beijing to struggle for life. She used to be a peasant, a waitress and a cell phone reseller. Pan represented the underprivileged population that is always neglected by us. I tried to characterize her by describing several different social roles she once played.

The story was strung together by these social roles: the cell phone reseller at Gongzhu Fen (‘Princess’s Tomb’, a tourist spot in Beijing), the daughter of Manlan Gou (her village’s name), the single mom in Tiantong Yuan (a neighborhood in Beijing, where Pan had lived), the passenger at Huixin West St. (the subway station where Pan died), and even as a hollowed body in the last chapter titled ‘backing home’.” Zhu developed the story through these clues; she still made Pan a humble figure, but with a more vivid and realistic tone, like a readers’ neighbor or someone they pass by on the street. That is the power of detailed description and characterization.

Making figure interview is like peeling an onion

Peeling the onion is an autobiographical work by German Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass. In this book, he admitted his history of being recruited into the Waffen-SS.  He reflected back through his past as though he was peeling an onion, layer by layer until he reached the deepest part in his heart. This “peeling back the layers” method is adopted by Zhang Han and Zhu Liudi to manage their WeChat official account, the Daily People.

 

Zhang Han (left) and Zhu Liudi answering questions

The first arrangement of an event is generally the most important and substantive part of a news report. The journalism term ‘first arrangement’ means the first and quickest report of an event.” Zhu Liudi said. She also expressed regret for Pan Xiaomei’s report, “the first arrangement of that event should have been the reason the tragedy happened, instead of whom it happened to. But due to many complicated barriers, we failed to get such information from interviews, so I turned to the daily life of Pan.”

Keep peeling layers until the last inch.” Zhang Han summarized three key qualities of a journalist, which are the abilities to judge, make breakthroughs and dig into details. “The last inch of detail is the point where you can stop your questions.” Zhang Han explained. She illustrated this with her essay, ‘the rain in autumn’.

It was about a mudslide in a small village in Yunnan. Kids were having a lesson when it suddenly happened. The mudslide submerged the whole school and half of the pupils were unfortunately killed. I was wondering which text they were studying at that moment, but the teacher was too frightened to recall anything from that lesson. Luckily one of the pupils told me the text was ‘the rain in autumn’. I was inexpressibly astonished as the village suffered from continuous rainy days before the mudslide, and it was also autumn back then. So I made ‘the rain in autumn’ my essay title. This coincidence was the most touching part of that essay.”

 

(Photo by Guo Yutong, edited by Tang yedan, Zheng Xinnian, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)

关闭

Copyright @ 2014 Wuhan University | by sigutech