Telum Talks To... Morgane Hu, Chief Editor of StoryStudio

Telum Talks To... Morgane Hu, Chief Editor of StoryStudio

Morgane Hu, the Chief Editor of StoryStudio, shared with us how the culture-focused new media participates in history investigations, meanwhile translates and conveys the knowledge of Taiwan and the world to the public.

Are StoryStudio's editorial processes and communication considerations different from those of the mass media? How do you evaluate Taiwanese readers' interests in and the knowledge of local and world history?
StoryStudio is a Taiwan-based new media outlet with multiple online platforms focusing on history, humanity and knowledge transformation. It generates original content every month, including our signature "Monthly Keywords" and videos. During our planning process, the team gives priority to our positioning, readers' preferences, topic relevance and the style of StoryStudio, and then we proceed with the planning accordingly.
We have a majority of Taiwanese readers aged 25-45 years old. We have a mission of writing, translating and communicating Taiwan's indigenous history, and this topic always resonates with our readers. We want to explain our local history and relevant knowledge that resonates with our daily lives and, if possible, in the broader world's context. It is really to show that history is not a boring accumulation of names and places in school textbooks and exams, but the information closely relates to our daily lives. Meanwhile, we also hope to give readers a more meaningful perspective. After knowing where we have come from and where we stand, we can see a more complete picture of the world with ourselves being the reference point. We are brought up in the humanistic soil of Taiwan, and therefore, we advocate the value of "rooted cosmopolitanism". 
For example, to mark the first anniversary of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan in May, we published a feature called "Marriage: Not About Love". We invited readers to explore the marital relationships in different eras and contexts with a case study of four same-sex couples who tied the knots last year. To get a historical perspective, we also looked at the marriage ceremony of the emperors from the Qing Dynasty and the much-famed divorce case of Chinese female poet Li Qingzhao. Through such exploration, one will gain a better understanding of the institution and concepts of marriage throughout our history and why it is how it is today. At the same time, we will understand the diversity of human nature in marriage, and discover the infinite possibilities of marriage and other types of relationships given the choices we have today.

StoryStudio has launched a special edition, which explores the local history of different counties in Taiwan, and is also doing historical investigation projects commissioned by different organisations. Can you introduce some interesting projects in progress?
StoryStudio has been working hard to explore all possible translations of historical and cultural knowledge and has grasped many opportunities over the years to collaborate with Taiwan's public and private organisations in historical research, exhibitions, videos, publications and marketing. Recently, what impressed the team the most was to participate in Pingtung County Government's project of "Reconstructing the Historical Field of Botan Tribe Incident". As the research team, StoryStudio conducted research and investigative work on this infamous historic event in Taiwan's diplomatic history.
Botan Tribe Incident was a series of conflicts between the Japanese government and the indigenous people of Taiwan's Botan Tribe. In one of the worst battles, Shimen Battle, 16 Botan Tribe soldiers (including the leader and his son) died on the spot. The soldiers were beheaded by Japanese troops, and their heads were taken away as a trophy. Through cross-reference of literature, our research team discovered the University of Edinburgh may have information about the whereabouts of their remains. At present, the leading figures of the literary and historical circles, the Botan Tribe, government departments and the University of Edinburgh are actively negotiating, intending to return the remains to Taiwanese tribe. This is an exciting development for us as it re-affirms our efforts.

One of StoryStudio’s strengths is its web visual design. How do you integrate visual elements into explaining history? Simple, bite-sized videos are quite popular in Taiwan in recent years. Do you think history can be explained clearly in this way?
In public, I often get questions about the decline of print media or the publishing industry as a result of the younger generation's dislike of reading. I do not entirely agree with the assumptions behind these questions. I always think we should expand the scope of "reading" and "knowledge" in this era. The definition of reading is not as confined as it used to be. In my opinion, reading is still ubiquitous. It's not that young people don't like reading any more, it's just that their reading behaviour happens on their phones and screens. Instead, as media practitioners, we have to think about how new content formats can go back and influence reading behaviour, and adapt to the changes. For example, new strategies are needed for publishing long-form articles on the screen, such as integrating different elements into the reading experience on portable devices.
Short-form videos published on social media exist because of the need for translating complex ideas into an easy-to-understand context with a view to attracting young people and creating a pleasant reading experience. In this case, readers can get entertainment and information at the same time. For example, the video we published on YouTube on April Fool’s Day, "The 100-Year Joke Challenge", received a very enthusiastic response.

You have a university degree in history and narratology. Do you think having a relevant academic background is an essential for someone to produce content about history?
Producing content about history is different from the work of historians. Relevant academic backgrounds are sufficient and but not a necessary condition. Our writers include doctors, engineers and accountants. Other than that, the editorial team members come from different academic backgrounds such as geology and advertising. What we have in common is our obsession with intellectual thinking and passion about humanities, arts and knowledge transformation.

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