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June 30, 2021

The Concept of Story | The Magic Boost

The Magic Boost, a summer-long experience for 16 aspiring track & field storytellers representing all platforms of new media, is underway.

Over the course of eight sessions, the Magic Boost Class of `21 will be exposed to the wisdom and experience of numerous in-the-field experts to refine their skillset as the next generation of track and field storytelling. For the first week, we invited Lori Shontz, a professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications who spent more than 25 years as a full-time journalist and covered four Olympic Games, to speak about the concept of story.

She shared that great stories are specific and universal. The more SPECIFIC your story is, the more UNIVERSAL it will become. Think and create beyond the five W’s. Know them and name them.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the first session compiled by Johnny Zhang, a rising track and field photographer based in New York City.

1. Humanizing the character

We talked a little about athletes being this immortal being but at the end of the day, they are human like the rest of us. They have ups and downs, friends and families, relationships, etc. This idea of humanizing the athlete and making them relatable is very powerful. It creates a more intimate connection between the subject and the audience and evokes emotions and perhaps motivation.

2. Putting the audience in the moment

This is probably my most important takeaway. A very important part of storytelling is to allow the audience to imagine that they are there, to feel what the subject feels and to see what the subject sees. In photography, it involves technical (i.e., focal length, shutter speed, aperture), creative (i.e. angle, lighting, composition) and soft skills (i.e. anticipation, facts, relationship with the subject).

3. Balancing your story vs. subject’s story

This is a new idea to me, but very important for me to think about. I believe in photography, there should be a balance between being creative/artistic vs. telling the subject’s story. When it becomes too abstract it is no longer the subject’s story and, in my opinion, loses that connection with the audience. Finding that perfect balance is difficult and will take a long time to master if that’s even possible.

4. Perspective

Tell a story from multiple perspectives. Tell it from the athlete’s perspective, from the audience’s perspective, from my own perspective, or what point I’m trying to make. It’s important but extremely difficult and time-consuming to show the audience something they haven’t seen before or that they don’t know about the subject. But when you do, it’s captivating.

5. Being prepared for when the opportunity comes

The holy grail for everything. You practice, practice, practice mastering the skills you’ll need for when the opportunity comes.


Katherine Burgess, a graphic designer out of Pittsburgh, Penn. who has worked with Keeping-Track, shared her notes in this awesome graphic.


Stay tuned for more updates from The Magic Boost’s class of 2021.

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