McGuire on Media

Brian Storm is a journalism original

Yesterday I spent two hours listening to a journalism original. Brian Storm is a colorful character with colorful language and an inspiring obsession with storytelling.

Storm, the mind behind the MediaStorm enterprise is the kind of entrepreneur every journalist needs to study. Frustrated with corporate journalism and software development Storm re-launched MediaStorm in 2005 to create what Storm calls cinematic narratives. Spend some quality time looking at some of his work and you start to understand his immense talent and you get a taste of his dedication.

Storm is a visiting professor at the Walter Cronkite School this semester. He’s spent three weeks here at various times. Today he met with faculty for a far-ranging conversation which flowed smoothly from his specific story telling techniques to his multi-pronged business model.

Storm is confident and brash but more than a little self-deprecating. He doesn’t seem to think what he does is real big deal. It is. His ability to take apart multi-media storytelling and explain the hundreds of nuances he builds into each piece is mesmerizing.  If you ever get a chance to listen to this dude it will reinforce your belief in craft. His sarcastic wit and salty language makes a newsroom veteran feel right at home.

I could never do justice to his animated analysis of what he does as a storyteller with audio, video, still photos and text, but a few snippets of his thinking might be illuminating.

He’s looking for “universal stories.”  He says those are not perishable. They’ll hold up over time and they are about big ideas like love, death and struggle. He called one story “your typical don’t judge a book by its cover story.”

Storm has plenty to do but he could easily teach teaching. His careful dissection of his work makes you smile, muse and pulls you up short. He talks about the art of mixing photos and video, discusses “frozen moments” and advocates for highlighting body language in video. “Video is important because 80% of communication is body language.” I got the warm fuzzies listening to a guy who has thought so deeply about his craft.

His journalistic philosophy is “shoot everything and we’ll figure it out in post-production.” He’s been teaching our students the importance of music as a narrative element  and telling them they must have a reason for an edit– they can’t just make an edit without a good rationale.

I could go on an on about his observations about technique but, as he says, there is a limit to how much people want to see the sausage being made.  Storm’s sausage is particularly brilliant.

Storm’s discussion of his business is just as riveting.  I love the term John Thornton of the Texas Tribune has apparently coined: “revenue promiscuity.”  Storm told me he wasn’t familiar with the term, but from what I heard he is an avid practitioner.

While Storm says sincerely, money is not his motivator, he understands that without money he can’t do the kind of storytelling that matters so deeply to him. So he has developed five streams of revenue. His publication business which is comprised of the 28 major pieces he and his team have produced; a syndication business; he produces work for corporate clients from Starbucks to Discovery Channel and AARP; Storm and his crew are also in the training business; and they are in the process of developing a software product that made the Cronkite faculty eyes pop. 

I admire Brian Storm’s talent. I love his irreverence. I think his entrepreneurialism is a model for frustrated journalists. Above all though, Brian Storm’s dedication to journalistic and multimedia storytelling is a pleasant comfort that the future holds great things.