As I’ve noted before, many modern web communications create natural narratives. “A Facebook Story” by Ian Shapira in the Washington Post is a powerful work of narrative journalism that follows the story of a pregnant woman’s journey through her posts and those of her family and friends. Most of the story is told through the status updates by Shana Greatman Swers, with some small narrative annotations by Shapiro:
It’s a powerful, emotionally-wrenching bit of journalism, done in a very unconventional way. I read it this morning and can’t get it out of my mind. I’m not sure if the story strikes me so deeply because my wife and I have recently had two children, or because it’s set, mostly, in the same hospital where our girls were born, or simply because it’s a gripping story told in the primary characters’ own words.
Shapira doesn’t do much traditional writing in this piece, but he shaped and edited Swers’ facebook feed to tell the story, with minimal bits of his narrative to round out the feature. The editors and designers at the Post also did a good job making the online story interactive: when you click on some of the photos, they expand so that you can see them bigger.
This approach wouldn’t work for a lot of stories, but this piece illustrates beautifully how old and new media can come together to create powerful, compelling narrative nonfiction.
If you haven’t read this, you should.
For more, check out Shapira’s live chat on the Post, as well as an interview with his editor Marc Fisher at the Nieman Storyboard.