Approaching storytelling from a different angle

By Teodor Georgiev

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The new year is a fitting opportunity to look back on the last twelve months. For the Journal team, this means reflecting on more than 600 published articles and podcasts, as well as at least three times as many conducted interviews. Each team member has selected the contribution that has marked them the most in 2023.

Without fail, every time after an interview, I am left feeling energised and privileged to have had the opportunity to hear a person’s story, which otherwise I wouldn’t. This is probably the reason why I am still in this profession. And of course, the most authentic way to let others feel what that conversation was like is to have them listen to it. Podcasting is easily my favourite format, and creating an episode of De Gemengepodcast about Luxembourg City in the summer only reinforced that belief.

However, this production was different from the start. And that is not just because it is a podcast with multiple interviewees, looking to fit the entirety of a city’s summer experience in 32 minutes. Before even making a list of potential interviewees, I asked myself, "What does the community that I am making this episode about want and need to hear?". Often in journalism, we approach subjects by looking at what stands out. We find that thing, and it is our angle or our hook. And it works, and we should do that. But it is worthwhile to try to look from the perspective of a person or a group of people first. It’s a small adjustment, but done at the very start, it makes a significant difference in the final result. Imagine a pilot leaving Los Angeles International Airport for New York City. If they adjust the plane’s heading by just 3.5 degrees south, they will end up in Washington, DC, instead of the Big Apple.

I don’t know where I would’ve ended up if I had taken the run-of-the-mill approach to producing this episode, but I like where I landed. I certainly wouldn’t have been taking a ride on the Wilde Maus roller coaster with a microphone in my hand. My only regret is not taking the advice of Laurent Schwaller, head of Luxembourg City’s department of public spaces, which organises the Schueberfouer. Having goggles to stop the wind from getting in my eyes would have made the experience even better. But that’s why I am passing on this advice to you.

"By writing or producing podcasts, we don’t just influence those who consume that content. We give the people who are engaged a voice and a sense that their effort is worthwhile."

Storytelling is the best feature of any episode of De Gemengepodcast, and the sounds of the Schueberfouer almost made it too easy to bring our listeners into the fair’s ecstatic atmosphere. This event brings together Luxembourgish people, who, according to Schwaller, often say, "We don’t see each other over the year, but we meet at Schueberfouer." For foreigners, it’s a chance to get a taste of Luxembourgish culture, and who knows, maybe even get out of their bubble and talk to a few locals. But nothing will make you feel more a part of this city than beginning to relate to some of its most common problems: housing and mobility. For a country as well-off as Luxembourg, it is a surprise to witness the lack of cycling infrastructure. Even more so when you find out lots of people are into taking their bicycle for a spin, including prominent figures like Jean Asselborn. Except that Luxembourg’s love for cycling is recreational rather than practical. That is slowly changing, as rental bicycles and government subsidies have made the two-wheel mode of transport more popular. Corinne Cahen, member of the chamber of deputies and former minister of family integration and the greater region, tells me she takes her e-bike to work. Still, Luxembourg remains very car-centric, and Déi Gréng’s Claudie Reyland made sure to highlight during our conversation that the tram was, as she puts it, "a green project."

As ever, storytelling is even easier when talking to people who are passionate about their vocation, like François Dickes, owner of Grund’s emblematic restaurant Vins Fins, or concert organiser Den Atelier’s managing director, Michel Welter. In fact, be it by writing or producing podcasts, we don’t just influence those who consume that content. We give the people who are engaged a voice and a sense that their effort is worthwhile, which keeps them evolving in their craft and benefiting society. And that is the circle of life of this episode’s story: bringing the residents of Luxembourg City a fresh take on the capital so that they go out and explore it, while those providing the services that make that happen will feel compelled to keep doing so.