Since the birth of the Story Team over five years ago, our skills and methods have changed, improved, and adapted. One of our highest values is treating each subject with dignity and respect. Through trial and error we have come to a rather rigorous, yet thorough, approach to publishing which honors this value.
We publish written stories, usually somewhere between 600-800 words with a few illustrative images, every week. But how many people are really involved in that process? Five years ago, with a handful of artists and fewer resources, our focus and approach was slightly different than today. But now, with more mistakes and experience under us, we have honed a process of gathering, crafting, and sharing stories.
The image below demonstrates our workflow steps for a written story, from online submission to publishing on our website.
To break it down further, here are the steps in chronological order:
- The Subject submits their story online. The online form is short and sweet, but it allows our staff to view a few key details about the story, and decide if it’s a story we can tell. (See form: http://austinstone.org/stories/share-your-story)
- The story submissions are sifted through, prayed over, and discussed. We select a few key stories to assign to our volunteers.
- Volunteers are assigned to each story. Each story gets a writer, a photographer, an initial editor, and a final editor.
- The writer and photographer meet with the subject face-to-face, to get to know them and their story a bit, and to schedule the actual interview.
- The writer and photographer conduct the interview with the subject.
- From there, the writer and photographer split off: The writer writes the first draft and submits it, and the photographer schedules and conducts the photo shoot.
- The initial editor reviews content of the story and gives feedback to the writer on the structure and narrative of the story.
- The writer revises and resubmits the story. The photographer selects top photos, and then edits and submits them.
- The initial editor takes the written story and edits for grammar and style, and submits for the final editor to review.
- Final editor makes any changes needed before the story is submitted for final review.
- Final story is sent to the subject to fact-check.
- Upon approval from subject, story is scheduled for publishing.
In an ideal world, from the time a story is assigned to the time it is published, is 6-7 weeks. In the actual world, all kinds of things can happen to delay the process: scheduling conflicts, writer’s block, challenges in handling sensitive material, deciding direction of story, etc. Some stories get shelved or put on hold for various reasons, but typically, a story will be published within a couple of months of the interview.
Are you a journalist, writer, photographer, or editor who works with a team? What is your process like?
What are some common obstacles in publishing that you deal with?
Feature image by Jordan Vonderhaar