Using Narrative to Tell Stories About Water

Leslie, Jacques
March 2005
Nieman Reports;Spring2005, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p47
This article focuses on the author's inclination to use narrative journalism when reporting global water scarcity. According to the author, part of his attraction to narrative journalism is that it's the antithesis of long-distance reporting: It celebrates immediacy and intimacy and abhors abstraction--the only ones it allows are grounded in concrete. In a long piece he wrote for Harper's about global water scarcity, he interspersed narrative and exposition. he'd taken on the elemental subject of water, but the piece still felt like a view from the shore: To immerse himself, he'd have to write a book. At the core of every debate about water are dams, the modern pyramids, generators of extravagantly apportioned electricity, water storage, and environmental and social disasters, where water conflicts are manifested in most dramatic form--he knew dams were his subject. At first he became intrigued by the ambitions and tribulations of the shortlived but influential World Commission on Dams. The commission arose out of the World Bank's frustration in building dams, when the bank found many of its projects stalled by protests: In an act of seeming desperation, it agreed to support an independent commission of leaders from every dam constituency that would review dams' performance and provide guidelines for how they ought to be built in the future.


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