An episodic story, for example, might follow the journey of a person who is homeless, highlighting his or her personal struggle to find safe, reliable housing. Such a story is meant to draw attention to homelessness as an important issue that the community should address through a variety of programs and policies. But the story is actually more likely to focus the public’s attention on the specific person, invoking the belief that this individual’s actions and choices resulted in homelessness.
By contrast, a thematic story would unpack the community or systemic drivers of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, economic inequality in the community, the loss of a major employer or industry, or inadequate services for people who are at risk of becoming homeless. Where the episodic story focuses on a single individual, the thematic story sheds light on the broader themes and trends over time.