A young college student asked Robin Rayne Nelson after her presentation to FOCUS meeting on Pixels and Picas, “How do you deal with your emotions when covering a story like you shared?”
Robin said earlier, “We’re taught that journalists are to be objective in their work. That should be our goal. But we are human, not robots.”
Click on photo here to see the story that Robin shared as used by the Marietta Daily Journal.
I realized hearing this question that the young college student didn’t understand being a human being means you should feel all the emotions that the story takes you. You don’t bury these emotions, you embrace them. You explore them. It is through embracing you are taping into subject’s world. It let’s you really get closer to understanding their struggles.
It is when you are really honest with your emotions that you can then be unbiased. You are able to understand what you feel is real and then backup and look at things from a different perspective, which the subject often is unable to do.
Robin said, “Some might call what I do advocacy journalism, and I’m okay with that, but I am first and always a journalist.”
While doing stories on disability for the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the university of Georgia Robin says, “Most important, my ‘why’ is to help reshape how society views and treats those with developmental challenges.” Robin is trying to persuade the audience to consider the realities of people dealing with disabilities.
In persuasion, your message has to focus on emotions, all the while maintaining a balance between logic and feelings. Logic and emotion are the two elements that make for perfect persuasion. We can be persuasive using only logic or only emotion, but the effect will be short-term and unbalanced.
If you want to move your audience emotionally, you have to experienced it first as the communicator. People will not cry if you didn’t cry. The audience will not laugh if you didn’t laugh.
The subject’s story must move you enough to poor all you have into the storytelling process so that the subject’s story will move the audience’s heart and minds into action.
You can hear and see Robin’s presentation here in the video I made of her talk.
My message for student’s learning this craft of journalism and storytelling is not to be afraid of stories impacting you emotionally, my concern is that you are not being emotionally moved more.
As you peel the onion of a person’s story to get to the core of the story you should be experiencing a deeper emotion than when you started. It may be tears of laughter or sorrow. Each story is different just as each person is different.