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April 8, 2009, noon

Richard Koci Hernandez’s key to success: Astonish your audience

Here’s a third quick excerpt from our Richard Koci Hernandez interview. In this clip he talks about the power of astonishment in creating great work online:

…we’re really competing for viewers. We’re competing for eyeballs. We’re competing with everything, you know? I even said, you know like — somebody asked, “Well, who’s your competition when you were at the [San Jose Mercury News] or just in the storytelling business?” Everybody’s our competition! LOLcats, you know? Pretty pictures of cats and funny pictures of dogs. That’s my competition.

Full transcript after the jump.

I love the idea of “astonish me.” Again, the story comes from Richard Avedon. I’m a still photographer, so my background is in still photography. So my first love when I’m reading things, I love to read about still photographers. And the one thing I love about every great still photographer in history, is they all played around with moving images.

But Richard Avedon was asked what [was] the best advice he ever got as a photographer, and he said that — I believe it was an editor at Harper’s once told him, “Just astonish me.” And I have that taped everywhere. You know, it’s really, I think — as a storyteller that’s what you do want to do. The greatest storytellers that inspire me today, people like Ira Glass and filmmakers out there — that’s what they do. They astonish me and they surprise me. And so you know, that’s kind of my — when I put anything together, I really am trying to astonish someone in some way, shape, or form.

To even break it down further, we’re really competing for viewers. We’re competing for eyeballs. We’re competing with everything, you know? I even said, you know like — somebody asked, “Well, who’s your competition when you were at the [San Jose Mercury News] or just in the storytelling business?” Everybody’s our competition! LOLcats, you know? Pretty pictures of cats and funny pictures of dogs. That’s my competition. And I think that in storytelling, even in very small ways, you can astonish people with your stories. So that’s kind of something I — It’s kind of my pinnacle. If I can find and create stories that astonish people, then I feel like I’m on the right track.

POSTED     April 8, 2009, noon
PART OF A SERIES     Nieman Narrative Conference 2009
PART OF A SERIES     Richard Koci Hernandez
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