Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A to Z Challenge - B for Backstory

Theme - Journalism jargons
"Backstory" is a term used not just in journalism, but in literature too. It’s a synonym for "background information".

When writing a novel, authors introduce events that lead up to the main plot. In theatre, the word refers to the background of the character.

In journalism, a backstory could be a small paragraph comprising two sentences or a full-length story of around 300 words.

PURPOSE OF RECALL 

Reporters introduce a backstory paragraph typically in cases when there has been a development to a story that happened a few days or weeks or even months before. It serves as a recall for the reader who probably would have forgotten what the original story was.

An example could be the arrest of a person suspected to be involved in a murder, which happened a few weeks before. One of the aims of providing the backstory is to bring the reader up to speed. It also serves to provide the larger picture as well as perspective to an ongoing story.

On a website, in the digital copy, the backstory can be provided in the form of hyperlinks to stories published earlier. Nevertheless, it is always better to provide a backgrounder, because the reader should not be put through the hassles of clicking on multiple web links to understand the background to a particular story.

DESCRIPTION OF SERIES OF EVENTS

If the background information has lots of details, then the backstory can be in the form of a short article. This happens when there are multiple interlinked elements to a story, and becomes difficult to summarise all that in a short paragraph.

An example of this could be circumstances surrounding a particular news development. Imagine a political party nominating its candidate for an election. It is possible that there was huge drama preceding the nomination. So, that can be described in detail as a backstory accompanying the main article, providing a better perspective to the candidature.

REUTERS BACKSTORY

Reputed news agency Reuters, in April 2017, introduced a feature called Backstory to provide details to its readers on how a particular story was discovered, what all went into the gathering of data and the writing of the article.

Readers who are interested in journalism can follow the Reuters Backstory here.

(This post is a part of the "Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2019".)

14 comments:

  1. Nice post. And great that you provided the Reuters backstory link. I didnt know they started this feature.

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    1. Hi Ninu - There are some interesting articles in the Reuters Backstory feature. Worth going through them.

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  2. In writing advice/tips, I keep hearing/reading that the backstory should be kept to a minimum - only on a need to know basis for the readers.

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    1. Hi Nilanjana - That is right, but in journalism, when the circumstances surrounding a news development is quite elaborate, then it is a little more than a few sentences; it runs into a few paragraphs.

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    2. Ya, journalism is different, there of course all the whys and wherefores must be provided, the same with research. That advice relates to fiction writing mostly. The backstory should be known in detail to the author only, the reader should not be burdened with the same level of detail. Not something I necessarily agree with, depends on the story and the readership. Sometimes the character's actions can seem utterly weird unless some sort of background is provided to the reader.

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  3. A very informative post, 'Backstory' used to give some idea just as recap.Now I got a detailed sense about it.

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    1. Hi Sarala - Ya, sometimes it's just a recap, otherwise it's more like a backgrounder.

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  4. When we read the reports in the dailies we are seamlessly taken to the related past news without knowing the nomenclature ‘backstory’. You have made it very clear

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  5. Interesting post. This is a new term for me. I thought backstory is same as recap.

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    1. Hi Rajan - It can also be sometimes more of a backgrounder surrounding the news story.

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  6. I did not realize this term was used in journalism.

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  7. Hi Liz - Yes, I think backstory has come from literature.

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  8. Hi Pradeep - interesting to read ... and I'm sure in investigative journalism then the backstory for anyone interested would be really useful to know about. Thanks for the link to the Reuters info ... cheers Hilary

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