Chapman Downes

#214: How HBO’s Real Sports Tells Stories on Purpose

#214: How HBO’s Real Sports Tells Stories on Purpose

There are a number of journalists that hope their work will spark a call for change in social injustices. But often the lack of story in their reporting results in disinterest from the public. That’s why crafting a powerful narrative structure is essential to get people to actually care and take action.

Here to share with you how purpose-told stories can result in remarkable change is my guest Chapman Downes, a producer of the HBO series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Their work has shed light on some of the most inspiring human accounts – as well as some of the most shocking. And in some instances, their expert reporting has resulted in complete reform, as in the case of the children camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates.

We try to do good long-form storytelling through the prism of sports. ~Chapman Downes

But what makes a series that covers such a diverse array of anecdotes that all share a tie to the sports industry so successful? It is their use of great narrative structure and mechanics. For example, they use compelling contrasts that captivates attention and paints a picture for viewers.

They also do a phenomenal job of simplifying complex issues to make it easy for any viewer to understand.

We make it easy for the viewer, who is being introduced to the story for the first time, to understand what is going on. Because if we can’t do that the first time, then we have lost the viewer. ~Chapman Downes

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Why the most engaging stories are about character, action, and contrast
  • The importance of simplifying the narrative to create understanding and belief for your audience
  • How powerful truthful narrative can create change on a very large scale
  • The importance of storytelling in journalism

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