Complicating the Narratives is about producing journalism on complex, divisive, or polarizing topics in a way that generates curiosity and understanding without causing further divides. When you use the strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to get to the depths of an issue. Following these techniques will also help you illuminate a problem in a way that helps your audience make sense of areas of contention or misunderstanding in their communities.

When you “complicate the narrative” in your reporting, you help the people you serve understand opposing views and engage more with the news. We hope that it will also help lead to healthier social and political debates and a healthier democracy.

Does your story complicate the narrative? Answering “yes” to a few of these questions indicates you’re on the right path.


  • acknowledge the complexity of the issue (and its various layers)?
  • share a historical or geographical lens for context?
  • challenge an assumption without feeding an existing stereotype?
  • explain to my audience that there may be no “right way” to look at or solve the issue?
  • spark curiosity?
  • get personal and move beyond the surface-level with sources?
  • illuminate a problem or solution in a way that helps make the conflict more constructive?
  • acknowledge what we don’t yet understand?
  • explain if/when a source changed their mind and why?
  • challenge my own biases as a journalist?
  • acknowledge when people feel conflicted or experience mixed emotions and why?
  • include sources that are not the “usual suspects”?
  • show the nuances of diverse perspectives?
  • reckon with power dynamics without diminishing what’s true and relevant about the stereotype?
  • help us understand ourselves, the other side, or our world better?
  • get to the deeper motivations for why people do what they do(their interests and values)?
  • include visual data (when relevant) that challenges the audience’s pre-existing beliefs?