The difference is this. A report moves along from one idea to the next: Something new happened. And, this person or group sees things this way. This other person or group sees things that way. Often a third point of view comes, typically an expert. And so on. That’s an over simplification but it’s not far off.
A story, on the other hand, has characters who move through a sequence of events. This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened…. Eventually, they run into trouble and attempt to work their way out of the predicament — sometimes successfully, other times not.
Alix says producing a story as a sequence of events requires a significant amount of planning. In other words, the story doesn’t just unfold in front of a microphone magically (though there are exceptions). Instead, a producer needs to diligently prepare. They have to think everything through and craft a series of questions that will prompt specific answers from an interviewee — answers that, later, will allow a reporter to fashion a narrative not a report.
Alix, by the way, is a science reporter for NPR. Her stories focus on human relations. Prior to working at the network, she was a staff producer at This American Life. And the piece featured on HowSound today — Love Is A Battle Field — was produced while she was at TAL. Her tips on preparing and conducting interviews will, without a doubt, help you with your next interview. So, listen closely. Take notes.
PS – Alix and producer Lu Lu Miller are launching a new program about human behavior for NPR. It’s called The Intangibles. Listen for it this October.