The power of honest and transparent storytelling

The latest issue of Tie u Orja featured a ‘Hear Me’ story called ‘The day I abandoned my family’. Written by Suphian Bangura, it tells the story of Dominic Sakilla Sesay and the day that he left his family behind to escape a deadly mudslide.

In the story, Sesay remembers how he was woken at 5am by a loud crash. As he makes his way out of his zinc house, water and mud gushes through the door. Once outside he sees a large boulder looming over him. Knowing that the boulder will crush him, he runs in shock and confusion leaving his wife and children behind.

For me, the story is an example of how powerful good journalism can be. The story peers into the depths of human nature and confronts the reader with an honesty that is typically left buried beneath the surface.

The story begins: ‘the year 2017 changed my life. It is the year I realised that I would abandon my wife and children to save myself,’ and immediately confronts the reader and asks them ‘what would I do in this situation?’

Of course, most of us would like to think that in the same situation our love and bravery would conqueror the fear of death and we would risk it all for our family. But in reality, we can never truly know and most of us will never be forced to stare into the darkest and most revealing parts of our psyche like Sesay was.

This is what makes the story so powerful. ‘It was then that I realised that I love myself more than I love my wife and children,’ is as shocking as it is honest. The story provokes a reaction from the reader at deeper psychological which leaves a lasting mark, while facts and figures eventually dissolve in our memory. This thought-provoking, and sometimes uncomfortable, narrative plunges the reader into the reality what it means to live in the shadow of disasters and the profoundly difficult decisions people are forced to make.

For me, this kind of story telling is the most powerful tool we have as journalists to raise awareness and inspire change and create genuine empathy. Real stories by real people that are told with absolute honesty. Stories that go beyond objectivity and facts and penetrates into a deeper, lingering truth.