How to Tell a Story as a Foreign Correspondent

Storytelling is a crucial part of international reporting. Join Martin Fletcher, retired NBC News foreign correspondent and Middle East bureau chief, in his master class in storytelling and reporting. Watch part one of the three-part series above, or read his tips for international reporting, edited for length and clarity, below.  

Humanize the news

The more you frame a development or a news event in the shape of a story, the more people are going to remember it.  

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If you find a way to tell a story through somebody’s personal experience, you make an impact. Find a story that resonates so that people can understand and feel it. I find characters by looking at the cameraman and producer, and wherever they are, I go somewhere else. I’m on the edges talking to people and getting their reaction.  

Report with compassion 

As a foreign correspondent, you need to be extremely accurate. And you need to be extremely interesting. That’s where creativity comes in.    

I always imagine two people listening to my report: the person at the State Department who specializes in that subject, and the person who couldn’t care less. I need to keep that person interested, and accurately report for the expert. You make that work by meeting people and caring about who they are and their stories. My job is to report the daily news in a compassionate way.   

Write to what you see 

If something interesting is happening on screen, write to it, spend time on it. Sacrifice a few graphics, a few more graphs of information to make me care. And why do I care? I care about the person. Why do I care about the person? I care about where that person’s going, it’s the journey. Take me along on the journey.  

Follow the three levels of writing 

Level 1: Gather information. Bring together your knowledge, your notes and your soundbites.  

Level 2: Write a first draft.  

Level 3: Make every word count. Take the script, eliminate the jargon and get rid of what you don’t need.