from the world's big
How to keep your audience engaged
Tips on telling human stories that audiences want to hear from start to finish.
Sebastian Junger is the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of THE PERFECT STORM, FIRE, A DEATH IN BELMONT, WAR and TRIBE. As an award-winning journalist, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a special correspondent at ABC News, he has covered major international news stories around the world, and has received both a National Magazine Award and a Peabody Award. Junger is also a documentary filmmaker whose debut film "Restrepo", a feature-length documentary (co-directed with Tim Hetherington), was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: So I'm a journalist. I've been a journalist my whole life. And that means that when you write something the first step is to gather information about it. And you start gathering information because you have an idea about how the world works and you want to pursue that idea and see if, in fact, that's true. The first thing that you have to do is be prepared to give up that idea and understand the world in a different way that you hadn't anticipated. Someone once asked me what the definition of a journalist is and the best I could come up with but I think it's a pretty good definition is a journalist is someone who's willing to disappoint themselves with the truth. So you gather your information and you gather your stacks of studies and research and transcripts of interviews you've done. You've talked to everyone you can think of. And then you start to organize it in your mind.
You start to map out this world that you've researched in a way that has a kind of internal coherence. And not only an internal coherence but a kind of narrative trajectory. Every piece of journalism has a narrative arc. The narrative arc is integral to any human storytelling. It's been around surely since the Stone Age, since the invention of language. You have to make use of that in telling a long form journalistic story or people just won't stay with you. Then once I have all of that together I ignore everything. I choose the scene that I'm opening my book or my story with. It's got to be a compelling scene. It's got to be a scene that I can't wait to describe because it's so intense. It's so amazing. Like I can't wait to get my hands on it and put words to it. If you don't feel that way about the scene that you're writing people aren't going to feel that way about reading it. And then they're not going to finish your book.
And I just sit with that scene and it may be something I experienced personally or it may be something that I reported on and found out about that happened to other people. And I sit with that and I try to describe it in sort of – I try to think like a cinematographer. I basically say to myself if this were the opening of a movie what would the camera be looking at? What would the camera be lingering on? What would it pan to? Where would it zoom in? What would we want to see on the screen? And then I'm off and running and then you start to put in the more hard core research and then you never want to be in that hard core research place for too many pages because you'll lose people and then you have to cut out to another scene that tells a kind of human story and you just keep toggling back and forth between sort of making people eat their spinach as it were. Take in this information that they need to know but maybe it's a little tough going. You toggle back and forth between that and the sort of human stories that are amazing but if they're not supported by evidence and by data and information they lose their credibility. You just keep toggling back and forth hoping to get the right mix and hoping to keep people with you until the very end of the book.
Writing is such a – it's like religion or something. It's such a big sprawling complex weird topic that it's hard to come up with rules about it. It's hard to give advice. It's like marriage advice or something like what works in one marriage doesn't necessarily work in another. Writing is a little bit like that. I think mostly you as a writer have to feel like you're not important. Like the work that you're doing isn't about you. If your book is a bestseller you were a servant of that information. It doesn't exist to serve you. You served it. Maybe it brought you along for the ride and you became a well-known writer, well that's great. But you have to really keep in mind that you're the least important thing in the whole equation. The readers are the most important. The stories themselves are the most important. And you're just the messenger. And God forbid you get any of that reversed.
- The most important part of being a writer is feeling that you're not important and that the work you're doing is not about you.
- "A journalist is someone who is willing to disappoint themselves with the truth."
- Every piece of journalism has a narrative arc, and that arc is integral to any human storytelling.
- How to tell better stories and capture people's attention | Alan Alda ... ›
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Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.