Southeast Storytelling Workshop Sets Model for Regional Training

Scott Jensen of the Alaska Dispatch News spoke at the Southeast Storytelling Workshop about the building blocks of visual storytelling. (Photo/Chris Hansen)

By Adrienne Andrews

Athens, GA (June 17, 2016) – When Southeast Storytelling Workshop co-directors Matthew Pearl and John Kirtley set out in early 2016 to sate the southeast region’s hunger for a local television journalism workshop, they had no idea they would inspire and reinvigorate so many local television journalists.

“We wanted to stoke people's passions, we wanted to get them going,” said Pearl. “We wanted to inject people with enthusiasm and desire to tell better stories and do better work.”

The workshop in Atlanta on June 10-11 ended up doing just that, inspiring journalists ranging from high school students to former Best of Photojournalism winners. Over the course of two days, speakers addressed a sold-out crowd on topics including leading a newsroom, investigative journalism, teamwork and social media.

Organizers also wanted the program to appeal to entire newsroom staffs.

“Powerful visual storytelling doesn't work if it's just the photographers on board,” Kirtley said. “It has to be a newsroom philosophy.”

Maggie Harney, a recent University of Georgia photojournalism graduate, attended the workshop as a volunteer and was surprised by how much she could apply tactics from broadcast photojournalism to her emphasis in stills and multimedia.

“I loved the idea Kathleen Cairns shared of being a sponge,” Harney said. “She talked about how we should soak up information and pour it back out for viewers.”

The co-directors of the workshop are discussing the future of the Southeast Storytelling Workshop for coming years, but there’s hope that other regions will step up and host their own storytelling workshops.

“Especially for younger journalists in their first and second jobs, it's not an easy thing to get vacation time and travel across the country to go to a workshop,” Pearl said. He added that they would be glad to share insight on how other regions could host this kind of workshop.