The Power of Narrative conference, held at BU this year from March 22 to March 24, aims to “help narrative journalists to strengthen their craft skills, figure out the complex ethics of journalism, and learn about the down-to-earth humanity that is the genre’s strength.” Attendees were allowed to move freely around to listen to all the talks, but most people focused on the one in which they were most interested. There were sessions teaching the basics of narrative writing for teachers and editors, with interesting talks like “The Trauma of Journalism: Self-care for Journalists,” given by Sarah Kess.
A wide variety of people attended the conference, such as early career professionals hoping to build narrative skills, students currently studying journalism, and many veteran practitioners offering their perspectives. Attendees were employees from various media including newspapers, magazine, books, blogs, podcasts, and many multimedia platforms. People were looking to learn new things about journalism and came with questions for the speakers about their struggles. There were also many students, like me, who were curious about the vast topics that the speakers discussed. During the break, a jittery young lady slowly approached one of the journalists from The Boston Globe. She said to her, “Hi, I’m a huge, huge fan of your work, and I was wondering if you could answer a couple questions?” With no hesitations, the woman shook her hand and asked her to join a small table of journalists who proceeded to answer her questions.
Evan Ratliff gave a particularly interesting talk about narrative true crime writing, titled “Interviews with a Hitman – Methods and Ethics in Narrative Crime Reporting”. He is the author of The Mastermind, a book about the quest to bring down Paul Le Roux, a programmer turned cartel boss. The talk was a brief overview directed towards writers interested in writing narrative true crime. He tackled difficult questions about how to write about the story of a murderer while not forgetting the victims, and whether or not murderers have privacy rights. Ratliff warned writers to not write their stories with the mindset of making it into a movie because it could skew the storyline too far away from the truth.
Ratliff also spoke about his adventures while writing The Mastermind and his strange experience of finding Paul Le Roux’s hitman on LinkedIn. Surprisingly, the hitman told Ratliff that he worked with Paul Le Roux. He did so, however, without specifying his job– he only said, “I did some special work for him.” Ratliff made his speech engaging, all while emphasizing the importance of writing not only an appealing story, but also respecting both the victims and criminals.
The Power of Narrative conference was a great opportunity for new journalists, veteran journalists, and students in journalism to learn and explore new ideas in their field. Many were there to hone their skills in narrative writing or inquire about problems they are struggling with. For the college students attending, the convention was a learning experience and good opportunity to network professional journalists.
Emily Chen, Staff Writer
Emily Chen is a junior at Boston University majoring in public relations with a minor in psychology. She was born and raised in California, but hopes to eventually move to the Big Apple to pursue her career in fashion PR. During her free time, she enjoys traveling to different countries, trying new food, and cooking with friends.