Impact-Driven Conversations Spark Movements

“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.” ― Truman Capote

You may not have read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But you sure as hell have watched the movie. I still can’t believe it was Truman Capote that wrote the book. To me, Capote is the writer who wrote In Cold Blood.

There is no denying Breakfast and Tiffany’s is a classic. It has transcended time. Holly Golightly's fashion sense has stood the test of time. Whether you are a millennial, or Gen Z you can’t help but be drawn to Holly, her LBD, pearls, and all, standing outside Tiffany’s breakfast in hand. She is a pop icon. She has inspired many directors, movie stars, models, designers, and more. Breakfast at Tiffany’s has an undeniable impact on pop culture. Since 2017, you can actually have breakfast at Tiffany’s blue box cafe.

But for some reason, it barely registered in my mind that Capote was the author. In Cold Blood, however, was a non-fiction account of the murder of the Clutter family and subsequent trial. Now here’s where the genius of Capote really kicks in. When the book came out, people had already read about the murders and the outcome in newspapers. Capote still managed to capture the reader and spark a conversation. He did this by creating a new impact-driven category “narrative reporting”. He merged his ability to tell stories with reporting and facts.

Source — https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Filmpremiere_in_Du_Midi,_In_Koelen_Bloede_(In_Cold_Blood)_naar_het_boek_van_,_Bestanddeelnr_921-1637.jpg

Here’s a formal definition of Narrative Journalism:

Narrative journalism is a form of non-fiction that combines factual reporting with some of the narrative techniques and stylistic strategies traditionally associated with fiction and it is also called literary journalism. — Source — https://www.academia.edu/39070662/Narrative_Journalism_in_Truman_Capotes_In_Cold_Blood

Capote himself, as written by George Plimpton in The NY Times said:

“Of course, a properly done piece of narrative reporting requires imagination! — and a good deal of special technical equipment that is usually beyond the resources — and I don’t doubt the interests — of most fictional writers: an ability to transcribe verbatim long conversations, and to do so without taking notes or using tape-recordings. Also, it is necessary to have a 20/20 eye for visual detail — in this sense, it is quite true that one must be a “literary photographer,” though an exceedingly selective one. But, above all, the reporter must be able to empathize with personalities outside his usual imaginative range, mentalities unlike his own, kinds of people he would never have written about had he not been forced to by encountering them inside the journalistic situation. This last is what first attracted me to the notion of narrative reportage.”

Truman said this in the context of his fellow fiction writers. They thought his foray into non-fiction lacked imagination. When in reality, as we too know today, the opposite is true.

Keeping the reader engaged, with factual data, whilst sparking very real conversations about the nature of the incident and its outcome requires far more imagination, than perhaps writing about a boy wizard.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I stood in line on release day to buy each of the books. But it's easy to keep me engaged when I don’t know what’s going to happen. Its easy to provide me with escape in a fictional world.

None of us really want to face the harsh realities of life. I mostly read to escape. Unless I am reading for education. Why then did I pick up In Cold Blood? Impact. That book had such an impact on journalism, story telling and narration I had to read it! Its a book that sparked a conversation and the narrative journalist movement.

Remember 2017? Rowan Farrow and the New Yorker? Meghan Twohey and Jodi Kantor and the Times? Harvey Weinstein? Their narrative journalism started a conversation that sparked a movement and then a shift in culture.

It sparked the Time’s Up movement and #MeToo. It impacted countless survivors of sexual assault and abuse. It gave us a VOICE. It emboldened us to speak up. It showed us we are not alone. It held abusers accountable starting with Weinstein.

It spotlighted the system of power that empowers abusers. And it gave the three authors of the story Pulitzer prizes. It also reminded us of the power of journalism. In an age of disinformation, fake news, it restored faith in journalistic integrity. The proverbial pen is mightier than the sword.

Cut to 2021, the Time’s up and #MeToo movement has certainly brought to light abusive and harmful behaviors in workplaces and homes. It made us all stand up and say — this is not ok. It made organizations tighten contracts and have zero-tolerance policies. Did it solve everything? No? But it's a step in the right direction.

We need more such impact-driven conversation. We need more movements. We need to shine a light into the dark corners of our planet and not be afraid to talk about it.