Highlights from ivoh’s first Restorative Narrative Fellowship

For the past two years, Images & Voices of Hope has studied a storytelling genre that we call Restorative Narrative — stories that show how people and communities are making a meaningful progression from despair to resilience.

Restorative Narratives don’t ignore the difficulties that a person or a community has endured; they explore the rough emotional terrain of the situation but move the story line beyond “what happened” to show what’s possible.

To learn more about Restorative Narrative, and to give media practitioners an opportunity to tell these narratives, we created a Restorative Narrative Fellowship in early 2015. The six-month fellowship gave five seasoned storytellers from around the U.S. a stipend to produce in-depth Restorative Narratives.

The fellowship generated awareness about the value of Restorative Narratives and deepened our understanding of the impact they can have. Drawing upon the work we’ve already done, as well as the lessons we’ll learn from the fellows, we were able to clarify some of the distinctions and key elements of Restorative Narratives. We want to continue clarifying this genre through the second iteration of the fellowship, and would ultimately like to develop teaching materials and models that we can take into newsrooms and classrooms. Our goal is to expand the reach and practice of this genre because we see a growing need for it.


MEET THE FELLOWS: Our 2015 fellows were a talented group of journalists from around the country: Jake Harper, Ben Montgomery, Rochelle Riley, Alex Tizon, and Elissa Yancey. The fellows, who were hand-selected for the fellowship, told stories in Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

Jake Harper

Jake Harper is a health journalist with WFYI in Indianapolis. After getting out of the Peace Corps, he got his start with a data journalism fellowship at the Sunlight Foundation. He discovered his love for making radio at a community station in Madison, Wisc., & soon after began an internship with NPR’s State of the Re:Union. Jake’s work received a 1st place award from the Milwaukee Press Club & was a finalist in KCRW’s 24-Hour Radio Race. In his spare time, Jake makes pizza, rides his bike, and thumbs through random books at his local library.

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, founder of the narrative journalism website Gangrey.com, and author of the New York Times bestselling book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.” Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York’s Hudson River Valley, and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called “For Their Own Good,” about abuse at Florida’s oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.

Rochelle Riley

Rochelle Riley’s columns have appeared in the Detroit Free Press and at freep.com since 2000. She also blogs at rochelleriley.com and makes frequent television and radio appearances, especially on NPR and MSNBC. Rochelle writes passionately about responsible government, community responsibility, public education, pop culture, race, film, and Michigan’s reading crisis. She has worked at The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her columns on the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption scandal were part of the entry that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. Rochelle has won the 2013 National Headliner Award for best column writing, the inaugural Will Rogers Humanitarian Award for community service from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (2011), and first-place column-writing honors from the National Association of Black Journalists (2014). The Michigan Press Association has named her Michigan’s best local columnist four times. Hour magazine readers just named her Detroit’s best female columnist for the fifth year in a row (2014).

Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon is the author of “Big Little Man: In Search Of My Asian Self,” which was awarded a Lukas Book Prize. He is a former Seattle bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, and a former longtime staff writer for the Seattle Times, where he was a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism. Alex has reported from a floating slab of ice in the Arctic Ocean, a lava field at the foot of Mount Pinatubo, and an ancient Buddhist temple on the island of Java. His reportage has covered aspects of the most cataclysmic news events in recent times, including the 9/11 attacks, the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. Alex studied at the University of Oregon and Stanford, and currently teaches at UO. More information can be found at alextizon.com.

Elissa Yancey

Elissa Yancey, MSEd, is an associate professor in the journalism department at the University of Cincinnati, as well as a contributor at WCPO-TV Digital, and a communications consultant with UC’s Office of the Provost. With 20-plus years of reporting and teaching experience, she received UC’s Just Community Award in 2011 for her teaching of diverse cultures in a wide range of Service Learning courses for journalism students. In 2013, she received the university-wide Sarah Grant Barber Outstanding Award for her advising work with students.


MEET THE FELLOWS’ STORY COACH: The fellows worked closely with story coach Jacqui Banaszynski, who offered them editorial guidance and feedback throughout the six-month fellowship. She also led a day-long training session for them at the University of Missouri, guided them in a day-long dialogue about Restorative Narrative, and moderated the Restorative Narrative Fellows panel at ivoh’s 2015 media summit.

Jacqui Banaszynski is a veteran journalist who teaches storytellers around the world. She is a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, a faculty fellow at the Poynter Institute, and the coach for ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Fellows. Her story of two men dying of AIDS won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. She won the 1988 Associated Press Sports Editors award for deadline reporting from the Seoul Olympics. In 1986, she was a Pulitzer finalist in international reporting. Her edited projects have won awards for business, investigative, environmental, sports and human interest reporting, and her students are frequently winners in the Hearst competition, considered the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism.


EXPLORE THE FELLOWS’ WORK: The fellows were free to choose their own story topics, so long as they fit within the Restorative Narrative framework. Their stories covered topics such as child abuse, drug abuse, poverty, and loss. The topics were heavy and at times difficult to report on. Rather than focusing solely on the despair in these stories, the fellows extended the storyline and showed how people and communities demonstrated signs of resilience and recovery in the aftermath or midst of despair. You can read each of the fellows’ stories below. (Alex Tizon’s story has had some last-minute developments and won’t be published until the end of August 2015.)

Jake Harper’s stories:

Ben Montgomery’s stories:

Rochelle Riley’s stories:

Elissa Yancey’s stories:


STAY POSTED ON THE 2016 FELLOWSHIP: We consider the fellowship to be an integral part of our programming at ivoh. In Fall 2015, you can visit ivoh.org for more details on how to become involved in the second iteration of ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Fellowship.

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