Above, photo used in the promotional poster for documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which is playing at Ragtag Cinema today

Earlier this week journalist and MU professor Sara Shipley Hiles came to our reporting class as a guest lecturer. She discussed at length a longform piece she wrote for Mother Jones and the methods she uses to write longform pieces. She said something that really stuck with me, which was, “Think of your longform piece as if you were writing a screenplay.” Documentaries are my favorite genre of movie and I think they are a wonderful and valuable form of journalism to learn from. I went to True/False last year and saw a wide range of incredibly good films, including Bully, 1/2 RevolutionAi Weiwei: Never Sorry and The Imposter, which was one of my favorite movies of all time. I feel that each film I saw taught me different skills to use in my own journalism career.

Both documentaries and news writing have the same core goal: to tell a story. Thinking of a longform story as a screenplay brings the idea of storytelling to the forefront and forces you to make it a priority. I’ve always loved reading longform pieces but I have never felt very comfortable writing my own. As I gain more experience through the Missourian, I am becoming more and more comfortable writing longform pieces. My SEC Fashion piece was one of the longer pieces I have written, and through the experience of writing it I have become more comfortable with handling more in-depth narratives. I’m beginning to think I may even want to change my sequence to magazine, since my when I picture myself working in journalism, all of my ideal publications are magazines. Hopefully as I continue to experiment with different kinds of journalism I will become more sure about what I want to pursue.