3 GREAT STORIES: Starring homelessness, Solange, and facts

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Under the Bridge: a virtual reality visit with homeless in Seattle (1/19/17, KING-TV): The first two stories I’m featuring this week are significant for breaking new ground in messy circumstances.

Let’s start with “Under the Bridge”, a 360-degree mini-doc produced by KING-TV’s Toby Rigby and Matt Mrozinski (himself a recent Telling the Story podcast guest). They work with photographer/activist Tim Durkan to explore a homeless camp in Seattle, and they devote five minutes to providing immersive looks and raw moments.

One cannot take on a new frontier without growing pains, and this production definitely presents a few from a storytelling standpoint. Watching it on my phone in a public place, I struggled at times to figure out where I was supposed to be looking. I often needed to take a few seconds during moments of dialogue to actually spot who was speaking.

But this is foremost an inspiring effort. Rigby and Mrozinski use the 360-degree space in innovative ways, from the opening titles to a sea of surrounding photographs towards the end. I applaud their dedication and perseverance here, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

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Solo video journalists: take the MMJ Survey

I have spent my entire career as a multimedia journalist, or MMJ.

And because of that, I know all too well how little attention and instruction are paid to the position, even as it becomes one of the most prevalent jobs in local TV news.

In the past few years, I have taken major strides to rectify that. I have devoted many entries on this blog towards analyzing the quirks and challenges of the solo life, and this past fall I released a book, The Solo Video Journalist, which serves as a step-by-step guide through the storytelling process for aspiring MMJs.

Now I want to take the next step: this survey.

The MMJ Survey will provide a comprehensive look at how solo video journalists view their jobs, their industry, and themselves. I plan to compile the results and present them on this blog in the next few months.

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PODCAST EPISODE #49: Vicki Michaelis, journalism professor, University of Georgia

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How can we help journalism students do better?

What are the things journalism students should know before they enter the business?

So many of us in this profession, I fear, rarely think about how we welcome newcomers into that profession. I grapple with it often and have written about it in several entries in this blog.

I have even authored a how-to book for aspiring local TV news reporters: The Solo Video Journalist, available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Vicki Michaelis has taken her own path to help our industry’s future. She became a nationally respected and renowned sportswriter, leading USA Today’s coverage of the Olympics on six different occasions. She also served as the president of the Association for Women in Sports Media.

Then she received an opportunity that she had not foreseen.

Michaelis, in 2012, learned of the chance to head the University of Georgia’s new sports journalism program. She applied for the job and got it, and for the past five years she has helped sculpt a wave of young sports reporters as they prepare for their grueling entry into the professional world.

Michaelis is my guest on Episode #49 of the Telling the Story podcast.

I really enjoyed this conversation, in which Michaelis gave important insights into the mindset of current journalism students. We also discussed, at length, my recent blog post about what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school. What should students expect to gain from a college journalism program? Michaelis and I dive deep into that topic.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Russia, J-school, & the World Darts Championship

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Putin led a complex cyberattack scheme to aid Trump, report finds (1/6/17, New York Times): I often feel like we’re losing our appreciation for thorough, straightforward reporting that provides both the news of the day and the appropriate context.

Here is an example of how that can look.

Michael Shear and David Sanger put forth this front-page piece for the New York Times, giving the latest findings from US intelligence officials regarding Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 Presidential election. They provide a link to the public report, which itself is a worthy read. But they show, through their work, many of the hallmarks of a strong reporting foundation. They also present their findings in a digestible way.

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Ten years later, revisited: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school

Nearly four years ago, and ten years removed from college, I embarked on a project to help young journalists in ways I felt I had missed.

I started the “Telling the Story” blog and used one of my first posts to reflect on my college experience. I titled the entry, “Ten years later: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school”. I spoke of how my time at Northwestern University did not prepare me for the day-to-day realities of TV news, nor did it prevent me from feeling overwhelmed at my first job. It did, however, encourage me to think big, both about and beyond my career, and I have never forgotten.

Of the hundreds of posts I have written, “Ten years later” remains among the most popular.

Now I have unveiled a new project: a book called The Solo Video Journalist. It also aims to assist young storytellers; it does so by providing a how-to guide to the fastest-growing position in our field. Nearly every broadcast journalist who enters the field today must shoot and edit his or her own stories; many embrace that challenge and turn it into an advantage. My book draws upon my experiences, as well as those of eleven other MMJs, to offer foundations and solutions to the unique challenges of the solo life.

I had not connected the book with this post until I was approached about re-publishing “Ten years later” for the web site School Video News, in conjunction with a review of my book.

But as I re-read the post, I see how true it remains — and how much it informs The Solo Video Journalist.

The post notes how no college experience can stop a young professional journalist from feeling overwhelmed. The book takes direct aim at that problem by working to make that life more manageable. Operating as a one-woman or one-man band can be daunting, especially while also adjusting to adulthood and figuring out the rest of one’s life. I want my book to help ease that transition, all while encouraging young journalists to think big about what they can accomplish in this profession.

As for this post, I am now four years removed from writing it — and 14 years removed from attending J-school — and I completely stand by it.

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When people find out I work as a TV news reporter, they often ask where I went to college.

I tell them: “Northwestern University; the Medill School of Journalism.”

Then they ask: “Did you like it there?”

I tell the truth: “Absolutely.”

Then, assuming we do not start talking about the always-promising Northwestern football team, they usually say something along these lines:

“That’s a great school for journalism. You must have learned a lot there, right?”

I always give the short answer: “Yes.”

But I always wind up thinking later about how the long answer to that question is far more complicated.

This week marks a big anniversary for me. Ten years ago, I finished my last class at Northwestern. I graduated in June 2003, and I started working at my first TV station in July, but I left Northwestern’s lovely Evanston, Ill. campus in March, carrying all the ambition and eagerness expected of an aspiring journalist.

For a long time after I left, I thought mainly about what I had not learned — what I could not possibly have learned in my four years at journalism school.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring seafarers, Greenland, & Super Mario

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Seattle mission serves foreign ship crews who cannot come ashore (12/28/16, KING-TV): As we turn the calendar to 2017, here is a touching, deceptively straightforward piece worth watching from 2016.

Ted Land with Seattle’s KING-TV is an especially talented solo video journalist, as well as a one-time podcast guest of mine and one of the interview subjects of my new how-to book for MMJs, The Solo Video Journalist. He is also a former National Edward R. Murrow winner for writing, and in this story he displays why.

Land tackles a seemingly simple subject — a Christian group that puts together care packages for foreign seafarers who dock in Seattle — but puts immense care into every word and shot. One needn’t work too hard to spot picturesque shots along the Pacific Ocean, but Land goes further and finds some of the most beautifully framed clips of video I’ve seen all year (2016, not this year).

That work ethic shows up throughout the piece, and it culminates in a winner of a story from a tremendous storyteller.

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PODCAST EPISODE #48: Best of 2016 edition

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This is a special podcast.

Normally I have one special guest from the news industry, offering insights about his or her career and advice for young journalists and storytellers.

This time, I have four.

Episode #48 is a compilation of some of my favorite clips from the past year’s episodes of the Telling the Story podcast. I chose snippets that specifically focused on advice for those just getting into the business — all from some of the best in the business at their respective positions.

You’ll hear from Jed Gamber and Catherine Steward, two photojournalists who in 2016 were named the NPPA’s Regional Photographers of the Year for the East and Central regions, respectively. (Listen to the full episode.)

You’ll hear from Boyd Huppert, the 100-Emmy-winning, world-renowned feature reporter for KARE-TV in the Twin Cities. (Listen to the full episode.)

And you’ll hear from Joe Little, who provided great insight for both the podcast and my book, The Solo Video Journalist, which is a how-to guide for young MMJs like Little and myself. (Listen to the full episode.)

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, audio/video edition

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

The tradition continues.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

I often find I enjoy the stories the second time almost as much as the first.

I posted my favorite written of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Celebrating 75 years of Red Rocks Amphitheater (9/5/16, KDVR-TV): Maybe it’s too easy.

Maybe it’s too easy to attempt a 20-minute special when the subject is such a ready-made stunner.

And maybe it’s too easy to do so with not one or two photographers, but more than a half-dozen.

But there’s nothing easy about the craft and creativity that went into this exquisite show from KDVR-TV, honoring the captivating Red Rocks Amphitheater on its 75th birthday.

Everyone involved deserves credit for such a compelling tribute to a fitting subject, but I want to specifically shout out the photographers. Yes, they had the built-in benefit of covering one of the most visually beautiful sites in the world, but they didn’t waste the chance, continually finding unique stories to tell and presenting characters as memorable as the amphitheater itself. Every piece is a winner, but I particularly enjoyed the segment with Blues Traveler, shot by Bryant Vander Weerd, Chris Mosher, and Isaias Medina.

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Looking back: The most popular posts of 2016

With the year wrapping up — and with me out of town this week on vacation — I made an executive decision regarding the blog:

It’s time for a compilation list.

I have experienced and written about quite a bit this year, and I have been heartened by the massive response I have received from people within the journalism community. I started this blog four years ago with the intent of helping storytellers and journalists improve at their craft. I hope entries like these have provided some guidance for doing that, through either my personal examples or those of others.

Here are my five most popular posts of 2016, along with an excerpt:

5) Remembering Clem Ferguson, the 96-year-old flight attendant (4/27/16)This was one of the more touching stories I got to tell this year. Clem Ferguson made a huge impression in a short amount of time.

Most television news reporters try to avoid clichés, but we tend to stumble upon one when people ask what we love most about our jobs.

The recurring answer? “Meeting people and telling their stories.”

I can’t deny it. I love that part of my job. Nearly every day involves meeting someone new; nearly every meeting involves learning something new. I continuously meet people who make me think, laugh, smile, and even cry.

And on the rare occasion, I get to meet someone like Clem Ferguson.

This past April Fool’s Day, I was assigned to tell Clem’s story, and it was a great one. Clem, I was told, was a lifetime Georgian who had finally received the chance, after 96 years, to live her childhood dream.

That dream? She had always wanted to become a flight attendant.

4) 5 Great Stories: the all-Boyd Huppert edition (10/31/16)This post was so popular — and received enough comments asking for more Huppert classics — that it was immediately followed by a “5 More Great Stories” edition.

It’s time to pay tribute to a legend.

This past Saturday, KARE-TV feature reporter Boyd Huppert received the coveted Silver Circle award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The honor often reflects longevity — a lifetime achievement award, if you will.

But few journalists have reached Huppert’s level of achievements.

In fact, that same night, Huppert won his 100th regional Emmy award — one of 11 he received for 2016.

In addition to his Emmys, Huppert has won 14 national Edward R. Murrow awards and three Sigma Delta Chi awards; he has received, on seven occasions, the NPPA’s Photojournalism Award for Reporting. Beyond that, Huppert has inspired thousands of journalists through both his teaching and his example, and he has touched millions with his heart-warming stories.

A far less prestigious achievement? He is by far the most mentioned reporter on this blog. In nearly four years, I have tagged Huppert in 23 posts — the majority of which have come as shout-outs for his work in this “3 Great Stories” segment.

3) My Olympics Journey: I tried a coxinha, and Brazilian Twitter went wild (8/3/16)I could never have anticipated this being the 3rd most popular post of 2016. But I could never have anticipated that a simple Tweet would become such a joyous moment.

I can barely believe it, but I have already been in Brazil for nearly a week. In that time, I have done multiple reports and made numerous posts to Facebook and Twitter, cataloging some of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic sights and elaborate Olympic venues.

But nothing has gained as much attention as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about a Brazilian culinary staple.

On Wednesday, a large group of us went on a day-long tour of the city, and midway through we stopped at the famous Selaron Steps. As we wrapped up and awaited our buses, one of my colleagues began talking with a Rio resident and pointed at an item in her hand from a street vendor.

It was a coxinha.

I had no idea what a coxinha was, but my colleague described it as a chicken hush puppy. Then she started passing it around.

I had to try … and I’m glad it did, because it was delicious. Within minutes, I posted the proof of my culinary victory to Twitter. It received a few likes and re-Tweets but quickly sank into the ether, like nearly every other Tweet, never to surface again.

Except it did.

2) Logan lives on: the triumph of a heart-warming story (9/7/16): This entry is a lesson in so many things, from the importance of pushing past first impressions to the power of social media.

I just spent most of August covering an event that captivates the world. I worked at the 2016 Summer Olympics for three weeks, produced 36 packages, made dozens of social media posts, and wrote 13 entries for this blog. Many of those packages, posts, and entries spread a great distance and performed very well both on-air and online.

But my most-read blog post from last month? It had nothing to do with the Olympics. It wasn’t in any way new; I had written it ten months earlier. And it was read nine times as much as the second-most popular post.

It was about a young man who has now touched hearts as worldwide as the Olympics.

It was about Logan.

If you have not heard or seen the story yet, let me catch you up. Logan Pickett is a teenager from Ringgold, Ga. who was diagnosed at a young age with autism. He struggles in social situations and, for a long time, had difficulty getting involved at his school. But his mother got him involved as a manager for the middle school football team, and he continued doing it into high school.

Logan absolutely awakened. He became a force on the Heritage High School sidelines, exhorting the crowd to, as he says, “Let me hear you!” But he never got to play … until last fall, when Logan’s coach conspired with an opposing coach one week to let Logan suit up, take a handoff, and score a touchdown.

1) Introducing The Solo Video Journalist, a how-to guide for aspiring MMJs (11/16/16)I put an enormous amount of effort into The Solo Video Journalist, a book I wrote and had published this year. I have been so gratified by the positive reaction from those in the storytelling community.

I am a television news reporter for the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Ga., the 10th largest TV market in the country. But I am also my own photographer, shooting and editing the video that becomes my pre-produced reports. From the start of my day to the finish, I am almost always on my own.

And I represent a growing reality in TV news.

The term “multimedia journalist” gets thrown around in the news business, but in television it has a clear meaning. It refers to a journalist who produces a report from start to finish, combining the jobs of a traditional reporter (researching, interviewing, writing) with those of a traditional photographer (shooting, editing). We now occupy a substantial part of TV newsrooms; per the latest survey, roughly nine of every ten local network affiliates use them in some capacity. When aspiring television journalists go to college, they are warned they will almost certainly start their careers – and likely spend a good chunk of them – as one-woman and one-man bands.

Yet no book exists that offers a comprehensive overview of what the job entails, with the insights and authorship of journalists working in the business.

So I wrote one.

I am proud and excited to announce the release of The Solo Video Journalist, available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is a how-to guide for a position in TV news that is long overdue for such analysis: the multimedia journalist, or MMJ.

svj-cover-2

The Solo Video Journalist is available for purchase. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, written edition

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

The tradition continues.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

I often find I enjoy the stories the second time almost as much as the first.

I will post my three favorite audio/video stories of the year next week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite written pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Brotherhood (3/23/16, Bleacher Report): Early on in “Brotherhood”, Howard Beck’s infinitely engrossing long-form story about the friendship between two basketball superstars, one of those stars makes a poignant statement.

“In our sport, or sports in general, everyone wants instant oatmeal,” says LeBron James. “Put it in the microwave, hit 30 seconds, you got a meal. Sometimes, no matter how great you are, it doesn’t happen like that.”

Now replace “sports” with “journalism”. In this era, many audiences — and news bosses — demand “instant oatmeal” from journalists, seeking and investing in clickbait and easy answers over more layered, complicated work.

Stories like this prove what one can get by waiting for a splendid meal.

Beck presents a fascinating portrait of two players — James and Carmelo Anthony — whose friendship and rivalry have provided a powerful undercurrent to the NBA’s past dozen years. This piece made headlines for a different “instant oatmeal” quote, where James muses how he would love to, one day, join forces with Anthony. But that quote comes at the end. The rest is a beautiful blend of smile-worthy memories, did-you-know-that stories, and revealing quotes from two of the league’s best.

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