Using Oral History as a Newsgathering and Storytelling Technique

By Shemberger, Melony | Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Using Oral History as a Newsgathering and Storytelling Technique


Shemberger, Melony, Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication


Introduction

Multimedia storytelling has transformed news organizations and journalism classrooms in recent years. While this approach is popular, alternative ways of telling and sharing stories with audiences are being explored and adopted. One approach that increasingly is gaining traction professionally as both a newsgathering and storytelling technique is oral history. In 2016, magazines such as Rolling Stone (oral history of the Allman Brothers), Vanity Fair (oral history of the Comedy Cellar), and Outside (oral history of "Hot Dog... The Movie") published news accounts using first-person interviews (O'Brien, 2016).

Some organizations also have relied on oral histories in the digital media era to tell stories. One in particular is StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that records, preserves, and shares the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. This organization has helped make oral history mainstream by specializing in recording first-person voices. Since 2003, the organization has recorded some 65,000 conversations and archived them at the Library of Congress. In 2015, StoryCorps launched a free mobile app that has since notched up more than 80,000 interviews, making it easier for people to preserve their stories. In addition, archival material-recorded long ago and stored away in academic libraries-is in greater demand by journalists and the public (O'Brien, 2016).

Among historians, oral history interviews help scholars to dig deep into studying the past and find information that deserves to be explored in greater detail. Journalists also must perform the same skills to do their work, and the journalism classroom is the place where students can experiment with oral history to attain these skills on deeper learning levels. With this in mind, oral histories can serve as experiential learning opportunities desired in an undergraduate journalism classroom.

Rich with classroom observations and student comments, this article explores oral history as a pedagogical approach for teaching newsgathering and storytelling techniques. Students in two separate semesters of an in-depth reporting class conducted oral history interviews as part of a project that stud- ied public education in Kentucky before standardized tests were emphasized. This article concludes with recommendations for journalism educators who might wish to incorporate oral history interviewing as part of their classroom instruction.

Background Information

Oral histories are beneficial not only for history classrooms, but they are vital primary sources that help enrich students' understanding of the historical period for any academic discipline. In addition, through oral histories, students are able to bring history alive by capturing personal stories and connecting with individuals to understand their experiences and perspectives better (Dutt-Doner, Allen & Campanaro, 2016). For the journalism classroom, oral history allows for a range of voices and insights within a chronological structure, with structure being a key element of narrative (Williams, 2013). With the right sources and focused reporting, students can make an oral history out of almost anything (Williams, 2013).

Two pedagogical approaches to using oral history in teaching are passive oral history and active oral history. Passive oral history uses audio or video recordings, transcripts, websites and other media to connect the student with content for the curricular area of study. Active oral history focuses on the instruction of methodology and prepares students to be researchers to collect their own oral histories (Lanman & Wendling, 2006). In other words, passive oral histories are interviews that were prepared previously and made available for use, whereas active oral histories are interviews in which students are conducting and recording the interviews. Therefore, oral histories can include anything from video sessions with veterans, talking about their experience in World War II, to grabbing any audio recorder and sitting with a grandparent, inquiring about growing up during the Great Depression. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Using Oral History as a Newsgathering and Storytelling Technique
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.