Narrative, Storytelling — January 4, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Storytellers: Find an angle


The best stories offer a new angle. They delight the viewer, telling them something they don’t already know.

The story needs to be different or new. Simply repeating what has already been reported is not an angle.

So how does one develop an angle? By reporting the story, interviewing and by doing research.

This past semester DePauw multimedia storytelling students got a chance to report and tell a story. The students were asked to examine the issue of rising college costs.

At first, the story seemed a bit overwhelming. How do I tell this story? What is new? What should be my focus?

A quick search of past news stories shows that few disagree that rising costs are putting a college education out of reach. Annual tuition at private liberal arts schools tops $50,000. The cost of obtaining a degree at most public universities now exceeds $10,000 annually.

The cost of a college degree has increased 12-fold over the past 30 years, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.

So where is the angle?

One logical approach would be to find out why costs keep going up. Some people blame faculty salaries. Others point to the growth of creature comforts. Still others, cite the enormous growth in university administration.

But good storytellers are always on the lookout for new information.

A recent Wall Street Journal story offers one possible angle.

The WSJ notes that schools, faced with resistance to rising tuition costs, are now starting to cut back office and administration. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations rose 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Department of Education data provides a nugget of new information that could be used to develop an angle for approaching the college cost story. It offers insight into what might be driving costs higher. Armed with this information, we can now chart a path on how to approach the story.

Bloomberg College Cost Chart

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