News storytelling tips: Maxine Mawhinney

Senior BBC News journalist Maxine Mawhinney gives a guide to telling stories that resonate with your audience.

Maxine Mawhinney was a presenter on BBC World TV the night that Princess Diana died. Here are her storytelling tips:

Finding stories

  • Stories are everywhere
  • It comes down to your mind-set and curiosity
  • Can you pitch your story in one sentence?

Telling stories

  • Don’t forget silence - it can be one of the most powerful tools
  • Fewer words is sometimes better
  • Don’t write long sentences
  • One thought per sentence

"Don’t lose your curiosity." – Maxine Mawhinney

The audience

  • What do they want - what questions do they want answered?
  • Speak to the audience, not at them or down to them - have a conversation
  • Keep in mind what your audience can’t experience - like touch, taste or smell

Interviewing

  • Ask short questions
  • Listen
  • If you aren’t getting much back, don’t ask another question, just look at them – they will be compelled to fill the silence

"Live with open eyes, read with an open mind and write with an open heart."– Maxine Mawhinney

Television reporting

  • Don’t describe what you see
  • Help the audience to understand and provide context
  • The image rules - get the best image

Radio reporting

  • The voice, the melody, the tone and the words are power

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