Sinclaire Sparkman: The impact of storytelling

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Oct 7, 2016 at 12:00 PM

I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen. I have always loved to tell stories; it’s in my blood. My grandmother has published several books and I’ve always looked up to her dedication to her craft. She used to work for the local paper in my hometown of London, Kentucky, and she still writes a column for them today. I feel I’ve followed in her footsteps in a way.

National Newspaper Week ends on Saturday, and I wanted to say, storytelling really has a way of bringing people together. 

I didn’t plan a step by step for my life when I was younger, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I entered college, although writing was always a big part of my identity. I always loved telling stories. I was studying geosciences as a major when it dawned on me that rocks and minerals were interesting, and they had their own stories to tell, but I didn’t want my life to revolve around dirt forever. No, there had to be something I was actually passionate about to pursue as a profession.   

I was drawn to journalism not only because the degree itself seemed more concrete than an English degree, but also because telling real life stories appealed more to me than making them up. It’s a particularly challenging thing to be able to report on real issues, not only to get it right, but to portray the situation in a way that is understandable and interesting.  

There’s an old saying that says ‘the newspaper is the first rough draft of history.’ That’s an important position to play. Historians often look to the newspaper to find out factual information from a time they are researching. Not only that, but people in the here and now need the right information to make informed choices.

Let’s be honest, we don’t always get it right, but we do our best to correct whatever we get wrong. In the age of instantaneous reporting on the Internet, the struggle to get things right has become even more difficult. As an editor, it is even more important to watch the information that is being handed to us by others that know the pressure on getting it out right now. The practice of double checking the facts will not become a lost art. 

Storytelling, though, is more than just getting the facts straight. Reporters that can really tell stories, even with something as bland as a government meeting, are a real treasure for their community. Some say reporting and story telling are two different things, but I beg to differ. That is probably said because storytelling sounds like fiction, but in reality there are stories all around us, in the real world, waiting to be told. A good reporter knows how to take the facts and weave them into a story that is captivating, real and worth the time of reading. 

So, I graduated from MTSU with my degree in journalism and was released into the world. I ended up working as a staff writer for a news website in Williamson county. I learned a lot about the world of the web, and how important it was to check my own work because we did not have an editor at this outfit. I was my own last line of defense against errors, but there was a rich array of stories to tell in the county, and I got a good bit of video editing experience while I was at it. 

Before coming to work at The Democrat, I also did a little side project covering the metal scene in Nashville. I had an independent website and interviewed a handful of bands trying to get their start and make their way to the big time in Nashville. It may come as a surprise to some in a city seemingly focused on country music, but the metal scene is pretty strong, and it’s still growing. 

My goal with NashMetal was simply to synergize the scene and get the local bands some exposure. I was surprised at how much it meant to the people involved in the scene to tell the story of metal in Nashville. I saw a bunch of similar sites and pages pop up during my time covering the scene, and I’m glad for that. 

It’s so important to tell stories. We actually understand and learn things in a more impactful way when information is in the story format.

Everyone has a story to tell. And storytelling, fact or fiction, has a particular way of bringing people closer together and enhancing understanding of particular issues. That’s why newswriting is important to me.  

Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports. 


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