1) Change is constant. After a year and a half and more than 250 posts, The Protojournalist storytelling project has reached its finish line. This will be the last Protojournalist post — under my aegis.
2) Exploration is good. The experiment began on June 14, 2013. It was my idea — to explore new ways of storytelling in the midst of all the variegated and fast-morphing forms available nowadays. The project, as I wrote in that initial post, was “dedicated to the exploration of story — auditory, interactive, visual, written. Story as instant conversation, as chart, as poetry, as song, as movie, as photo, as sound, as widget, as something we’ve yet to imagine.” My editor says we built up a sizable audience.
3) There’s more than one way to tell a story. Because of the open-mindedness of NPR, I was able to check most of the above challenges off the list. And I was allowed to delve into different storytelling forms in ways few others ever get to. I videoed the story of a blind man who had worked in the White House and was hoping to adopt three blind sons; typed an email-memo story to the National Security Agency; concocted an interactive Do-It-Yourself All Purpose Presidential Scandal Story; offered up the story of chef Paula Deen in a four-course menu; pasted together a political story as a personality test; explored Speed-Writing in a story about speed-reading; list-storied a number of things, including a 6-Pack Of Beer Summits, 5 Odd Things Named After Presidents, 4 Strange Sports In America’s Past and 3 Cities With Freeways Going Nowhere. Through it all, I tried to reflect the eclectic and electric nature of America, with its many strong voices. The one constant: the story.
4) Sometimes a story wants to be told a certain way. I ranted against rants and delivered a cliche-riddled defense of cliches. I provided forecasts — and pastcasts — of American weather. And I raised a queue of questions: Can Adhesive Bandages Be Racist? and Can Only The Rich Be President? and Should There Be A University Of Politics? and Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Good Psychopath’?
5) We are all storytellers. Whenever possible, I asked for help from NPR’s amazing community of LURVers — Listeners, Users, Readers and Viewers — to tell the story. And LURVers really responded. Projects within the project included recording How It Sounds To Be 28, or 31 or 9 and telling A Life Story in 6 Songs and puzzling Art In A Jar and wondering What Your Junk Drawer Reveals About You and contemplating the life of Americans abroad in Project Xpat and distilling the news into haiku.
7) It’s not about me. One of my favorite experiments was A Story About YOU in which YOU were both the co-writer and the main subject. Only at NPR, with its amazing team of developers, could I — and you — have gotten away with such a strange venture.
8) There are new worlds to discover. The Protojournalist unveiled Google Frecking — an info-gathering game we devised (at the suggestion of Scott, my supportive and creative editor) for drilling a little deeper into a subject that intrigues us.
9) Permanence is temporary. Along the way I was reminded that what you write on the Internet is forever — and fleeting at the same time. Some of my more experimental stories have disappeared because of link rot or some other digital disease.
10) … with a little help from my friends. For my next space exploration, I will be launching NPR History Dept., a blog about America’s past. NPR History Dept. was unknowingly suggested by several dear, and brilliant, friends of mine — Jamie, Mac, George and Jan — who teach, or have taught, history.
Above all, the new project has been inspired by my two ever-amazing sons, Stone and Holt, who in their brief, beautiful, meteoric lives, were intrinsic and intense students — and teachers — of history. With them and with you, I will venture into the future — and into the past — using what I learned as The Protojournalist.
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