The Future of Nonfiction

Feb 17, 2015 | Everything Else

Journalism is one of the things that come under the broader heading of nonfiction. It’s what David Carr cared about right up to the moment he collapsed in the New York Times newsroom.

One of the ways he demonstrated that caring was by teaching a course to journalism students at Boston University. A New York Times article about the course described it this way.

“The class he taught offered a window into the future he was trying to shape. His course, called Press Play, focused on the cutting edge of media and was about ‘making and distributing content in the present future we are living through.'”

You can find the syllabus for the course over at Medium. It’s about getting ready for a future that is just as much about business writing as it is about journalism. Here are my two key takeaways.

There are lots of things we have to learn

“What good is the fact that we now have the tools do almost anything on the Web if we don’t do anything with them? A look at the new forms of storytelling, using data, video, sound, and scrolling to tell sticky, remarkable stories.”

That’s David Carr’s question and it’s pretty simple and straightforward. We have new tools. We will have to learn to use them, mostly by experimenting. That means that, necessarily, we will get a lot wrong on the way to learning how to do things well.

The basics won’t change much

Whatever new tools we use, we will use them to tell “sticky, remarkable stories.” The basics of success will remain what they’ve been since we developed language and sat around the first campfires.

We will still have to find relevant stories to tell. We will still have to tell them well.