8 paths to defining a storytelling approach

Jacqui Banaszynski is a Pulitzer-prize winner and holds the Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism. She says one way to come up with different stories on a topic is to approach it from eight distinctive paths:

  1. A profile. Find the people behind a story, the characters driving the issue. You can profile not just a person, but a place, an event, even a building.
  2. Explanatory piece. Show readers why something happen or how something functions.
  3. Issues and trend stories. Ask yourself if there is a larger picture to explore. Trends are not exclusively related to culture or lifestyle; think crime or economy.
  4. Investigative. Look into wrongdoing, “follow the money,” analyze power struggles, and make use of available documents.
  5. Narrative. A story with a character, scenes, and tension.
  6. Descriptive/Day in the life. The alternative to a narrative, focusing on a particular moment, such as a ride-along with the police, a visit to the new museum.
  7. Voices or perspective story. Have people tell a story in a unique way: Q&A, roundtable discussion, a rail of quotes, or vignettes.
  8. Visual story. Photographs, graphics or illustrations might be the best ways to tell some stories.


This guide, like many of the others in API’s Journalism Essentials section, is largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists — a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics that for 10 years facilitated a discussion among thousands of journalists about what they did, how they did it, and why it was important. The author, Walter Dean, was CCJ training director and former API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel who previously co-chaired the committee.