A farewell for the year … and a little longer

283.

That’s the number of entries I have posted on this blog since I began in February 2013.

Writing a blog, producing a podcast, and interviewing fellow storytellers has been an extraordinary experience. I held off on starting a blog for a long time because I did not believe I could commit to it on a regular basis. But for three years — with the exception of a few holiday and vacation weeks — I did just that.

The good news? This 283rd entry will not be my last.

The bad news? It will be my last — or, at least, my last regularly scheduled entry — for a little while.

I am taking a break from the blog through the first quarter of 2016. I will be working on some big projects, both inside and outside of work, and need to be able to commit fully to them. I plan to resume at some point in April, continuing with the same interviews, story compilations, and reflections that have filled this space for the past three years.

I might also dip in every so often, if I feel the need, with an unscheduled entry. I have learned quite a bit since launching this blog, but more than anything I have seen the positive impact of discussing the oft-untold side of my field. I do not want to lose that, even as I scale back temporarily.

In the meantime, thank you for reading Post #283 as well as the rest of my Telling The Story offerings. I truly appreciate it, and I look forward to returning to the blog next spring!

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 2015, 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.

This is one of my favorite moments of the year.

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.

It always reminds me of how much magnificent work gets done every year. Here, for example, is my best-of list from 2014.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2015 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Elsa’s story (7/17/15, Denver Post): “Wow.”

That was all I could say after watching the “Elsa’s Story” documentary presented this week by the Denver Post.

The video accompanies a powerful article of the same name about 9-year-old Elsa, who “insisted as soon as she could speak that she was a girl, even though she was assigned male at birth.” The story truly revolves around the evolving acceptance of Elsa’s parents, specifically her mother, who essentially narrates the 16-minute documentary.

Sixteen minutes may seem like a long time to stare at a computer screen or focus on one’s cell phone, but the time pays off. The documentary’s length allows the viewer to process its images and words, in some ways journeying along with Elsa’s mother as she describes her struggle to understand Elsa’s maturation.

The video is full of poignant moments, most of which come from home movies of Elsa through childhood. Credit the Post’s Mahala Gaylord for the video and Jen Brown for the article — and the Post itself for investing such time and resources into a standout story.

#3) One-legged kicking coach inspires high school team (10/28/15, KARE-TV): If this story doesn’t win all kinds of awards next year, I will be stunned.

KARE-TV storyteller extraordinaire Boyd Huppert has done it again, this time thanks largely to the photography and editing of Kevin Sullivan. The visuals here are just stunning, from the blink-and-you-miss-them angles of football practice to the picturesque landscapes of Friday night football. They provide, for this story, a gorgeous aesthetic.

Huppert, as always, brings the piece’s soul.

He unfolds the story of a man named Larry, with one arm and one leg, who coaches kicking for a local high school football team. Huppert delivers the story with touching turns of phrase and that sing-song, lullaby-like cadence that immediately hooks a viewer.

This is beautiful work by all involved.

#2) Mondawmin Monday (4/27/15, WBFF-TV): There have been numerous stories and reports from Baltimore, some instructive and some less so, about the protests and riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

So much of the images and video have arrived as a stream — stations providing non-stop coverage and constant immediacy, which absolutely has its place in situations like this. But this story, from FOX 45 Baltimore’s Kathleen Cairns and Jed Gamber, shows the power of editing and context.

Given time — and a four-block radius — to document Monday’s action, reporter Cairns and photographer Gamber find themselves in the midst of smoking tear gas, a burning car, and numerous protesters and police. They capture it all with a sense of poignancy and objectivity; Gamber shoots and edits some powerful moments, and Cairns shows wise restraint with her script, stepping back and simply connecting the dots of those aforementioned moments.

This is one of the most haunting, powerful stories I have seen this year.

#1) South Carolina officer is charged with murder of Walter Scott (4/7/15, New York Times): There is no doubt about it.

The most powerful piece of storytelling this year came from a citizen’s cell phone camera*.

A South Carolina man captured video of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shooting a man named Walter Scott five times in the back, killing him. The clip launched an arrest, an avalanche of coverage, and a new chapter in the conversation on law enforcement.

As for the accompanying article, New York Times writers Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo wisely let the video do most of the talking, playing it straight and telling a thorough story. The Times received the video from the Scott family’s lawyer, and it sure made its mark.

*I debated whether to categorize this as written or audio/video, but I went with the latter because the video is truly the story here. This piece had such resonance because of the cell phone camera video, not the accompanying article.

 

My favorite blog posts of 2015: a look back

It’s been a heavy year for me.

I did not quite realize that until I scrolled through my blog posts.

This year I wrote about race, stress, and deflected dreams. Many of the most powerful stories I read by others were the ones that tackled grisly topics, from officer-involved shootings to international tragedies.

But I also wrote about the triumph of heart, the value in communication, and the joy of when a beautiful story touches millions of people.

As we wind down the calendar year, I present my favorite posts from 2015, with excerpts, in chronological order:

The lesson I learned telling a story about race (1/28/15)

On most subjects, when I ask people for their thoughts, I get a “Yes” response maybe a third of the time. With a less threatening subject that still breeds opinions — say, the performance of the local football team — my success rate jumps closer to 50%.

With a subject like race? I braced myself for a steady diet of rejection.

I received the exact opposite.

Nearly everyone I approached agreed to an on-camera interview, from a diner in downtown Atlanta to a panini shop in the suburbs. I asked people of different races, ages, and genders, and I heard a lot of yeses.

And those responses paved the way to powerful conversations.

I spoke with more than a dozen people, and I used nearly everyone’s words in the resulting story. I found their thoughts compelling and varied; many remarked how they had rarely discussed such weighty matters — particularly race — in their day-to-day lives.

What made them open up here?

I credit two things: my approach, and my station’s intentions.

Every time I approached someone, I laid out the request in as sincere and thoughtful a manner as possible. I described the hour-long special and pressed the importance of hearing numerous voices; I spoke about our desire as a station to promote conversation, and I never rushed or tried to push anyone who might not be sure. My story required honesty and openness; I needed to display both if I wished to receive it.

But I also felt heartened by the fact that so many people held such deep, poignant thoughts about race. We tend to only see the most polarizing, often offensive, comments in matters like these. This story reminded me how many people remain in the middle.

A storyteller’s trip to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni (4/22/15)

My journey to one of the world’s most stunning sights began with an innocent click.

Really, it began because of this web site.

I launched the Telling The Story blog in February 2013 to inspire journalists and storytellers, using not just my work but that of others around the world. I included a weekly series called “3 Great Stories” to spotlight the best pieces I watched, heard, or read that week.

I began to relish my regular quest to unearth such gems, and I regularly scanned different outlets to expand my reach.

In January 2014 I discovered Medium.

Advertised initially as a long-form version of Twitter, the site had become — at its best — a beacon of creativity where both young and established writers posted their work. I started scouring its headlines until I stumbled upon this one:

Salar de Uyuni: my trip to see the world’s largest mirror

It was accompanied by this photo:

Salar post photo

My eyes widened, and my index finger raced to the mouse to click on the link.

Interns, Part 2 (or: the time I almost became famous) (8/5/15)

But when you “make it” in your career, something critical happens:

You have to live what you have made.

The process of “making it” encompasses much of one’s 20s and early 30s; one then must spend the bulk of one’s adult life “keeping it”. The initial challenge evaporates, and the day-to-day job remains.

I stumbled upon this thought during my latest car ride with an intern. He was asking for advice about whether he should pursue journalism as a career. As we talked, I thought about the Clemens story and realized I had never really articulated the advice I was about to give.

“Here’s what you should do,” I said, in one form or another. “Take some time and just watch newscasts. Watch as many as you can. Watch them here in Atlanta; watch them in smaller markets. Heck, go online and watch a live-stream of some random newscast in some place you have never visited. While you watch, see what they do. See what types of stories the reporters cover. Combine that with what you have experienced this summer watching the reporters and journalists here. Understand that this is the type of work you most likely will end up doing.

“And when you make your decision about a career in journalism, think about that. Don’t think about whether you can handle living in a small market. Most likely, you can. Don’t worry about whether you will ultimately ‘make it’ to a big market. Because once you do all those things, you will still have the rest of your adult life ahead of you, and you will need to be happy doing the job you have.

“So don’t think about the short term. Think about the long term. Think about your life, and think about whether you are willing to commit so much of it to this line of work.”

It is a lesson so many of us fail to truly grasp until much later.

The balancing act: journalism and stress (10/14/15)

I accepted long ago that I receive, as a journalist, an extraordinary amount of access unavailable to most. That access is often a treasure: I have traveled to the Olympics, interviewed countless celebrities and public figures, and enjoyed fascinating and probing conversations with people I otherwise never would have met.

In other cases, that access is a burden, a necessary evil in the journey to inform.

In my dozen years as a journalist, I have witnessed the wreckage of floods and tornadoes. I have interviewed people in their most vulnerable, anguished states. I have sat with children during times of extreme sickness; in some cases, I have even attended their funerals.

Even when I covered the Sochi Olympics, we received beforehand severe internal warnings about the potential for terrorism, which left several of my co-workers questioning their decisions to take the assignment.

Witnessing an execution is an extreme example; Hullinger described to me his need, early on in the process, to simply close his eyes for 20 seconds and brace himself for the horror he was about to witness. I often feel similarly on a smaller scale; I report countless stories where I must first steel my heart before heading into the field.

And yet, I cannot steel myself too much. I need to remain able to be moved by my story, to absorb its emotions and importance. I must stay attuned to the larger societal questions surrounding virtually every assignment I receive, even as those issues bring a level of stress that is sometimes overwhelming.

Being a journalist requires me to know about the issues. Being a good journalist requires me to care about them.

And I want to be a good journalist.

So I must often allow myself to absorb the stress that comes with access.

Logan’s big play: watching one story reach millions (10/21/15)

One million people.

I could not believe it.

Several days of posting Logan’s story to Facebook, I looked at the numbers and found it had been seen by a million users. It had been liked and shared thousands of times, and it had received attention and comments from north Georgia to southeast Asia.

My stories — and my Facebook posts about them — rarely get much attention. They usually, according to Facebook’s insights, reach a few hundred people, sometimes a few thousand.

But a million? That just didn’t happen … until it did.

People seemed particularly touched by the celebration of Logan’s touchdown. They loved that both teams got in the act, and they strongly cheered on the messages of sportsmanship and empathy. Many spoke about getting tears in their eyes.

I was overwhelmed by how quickly the video spread. New likes, shares, and comments arrived literally every second. People wrote comments in which they simply tagged a friend, so that the friend could watch the video. The numbers surprised even the 11Alive digital team, which monitors a Facebook account with hundreds of thousands of followers.

To watch it all unfold felt both shocking and gratifying.

We talk all the time about the power of social media, and we often view it in more personal matters: the ability to keep in touch with friends, to share the moments of our lives, or to rally communities around causes. This was something different. This was watching a single story — and a beautiful video of Logan — reach a global audience and affect a number of people I could rarely otherwise reach. This was realizing a singular strength of life on earth in 2015: the potential for one person’s action — anyone, not just Logan and certainly not just me — to spread communally and organically in ways that bust traditional boundaries.

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 2015, 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.

This is one of my favorite moments of the year.

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.

It always reminds me of how much magnificent work gets done every year.

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 2015 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Ferguson: the other young black lives laid to rest in Michael Brown’s cemetery (8/7/15, BBC): What an inventive, informative way to commemorate the one-year mark of the killing of Michael Brown.

Jessica Lussenhop, senior writer for BBC News Magazine, visits St. Peter’s Cemetery in north St. Louis County, where “there is still no headstone in the place where 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr is buried”. But, Lussenhop discovers, the cemetery is home to many with similar stories:

If one walks in any direction away from grave number four, there are many more pictures of black men and women who died in their teens or early 20s. Some are grinning in school portraits, or giving the camera their most serious expression. Some stones include a baby picture, or a composite photo of the deceased with their children. One marker is etched with a photo of the young man’s beloved truck.

Within a roughly 30-metre radius of Michael’s grave there are at least 15 homicide victims. The youngest was a 15-year-old. Most of them were shot. There are also deaths by suicide, cancer, car accidents, but for those under the age of 30, the predominant cause of death is homicide.

The difficulty of telling a story like Michael Brown’s comes from the temptation to immediately intertwine the individual incident with the massive context and history surrounding it. Lussenhop succeeds by seeking out the numerous incidents that provide such context; she turns in a appropriately rich story as a result.

#3) These are the families left to reclaim Garissa’s dead (4/9/15, Buzzfeed): Tucked away behind lists about animals and ‘NSYNC, Buzzfeed dedicates resources to a team that regularly produces long-form gems.

Here, global news correspondent Jina Moore presents one of the most heart-rending stories I have read in a long time.

A week earlier, gunmen stormed the campus of Garissa University in Kenya and killed 144 people, mostly students, in ways both horrifying and humiliating. Moore steps in the following week by describing, not the attack, but the search by parents to claim their dead children.

This is a devastating read, and Moore writes with such descriptive power that each sentence feels like a stomach punch. She puts a captivating spotlight on the aftermath of this incidence of international terrorism.

#2) The new science of sentencing (8/4/15, The Marshall Project): One of the most fascinating subjects I have covered recently is criminal justice reform.

It seems to be one of the few issues both political parties can support: finding ways to shrink the jail population and reduce recidivism once ex-offenders return to society.

This story — a dual effort from The Marshall Project and FiveThirtyEight — does a dazzling job of spotlighting one of the issue’s more advanced and controversial innovations. As written by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ben Casselman, and Dana Goldstein, “Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming one of the first states in the country to base criminal sentences not only on what crimes people have been convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes.”

So many ethical questions come into play in this story, and its writers spell each one out with depth and nuance. This is a long read but an informative, excellent read.

#1) A father’s initiative (5/16/15, Washington Post): I can tell when I have read a truly powerful story because of my physical response when it ends.

I get so absorbed in the world of the story that I must actually take a few seconds afterwards to re-acclimate to mine.

I had that reaction after completing “A father’s initiative”, Eli Saslow’s wrenching feature about a single dad taking President Obama’s 16-class fatherhood course. In many ways, this article is a Rorschach test for how one views poverty, race, and other matters. Mostly, though, it is a poignant tale of human struggle — and whether or not that struggle can be soothed through bureaucratic means. Each paragraph ripples with conflicting emotions, such as this one early in the piece:

Now it was his 15th class, nearing the end, and despite the hopeful language in a course guide — “End the cycle of intergenerational poverty!” “Help turn your child turn into a success story in 16 lessons.” — so much about his life remained unstable. He had moved nine times in seven months. He had been offered two jobs but failed the drug tests. It had been several days since he had seen the baby’s mother, a former longtime girlfriend who was no longer living with them. “Sapphire misses you. Are you coming over to see her??” he had texted once, and the silence that followed made him think Sapphire might become another black child whose long odds depended on a single parent, and that parent was him.

Power vs. respect: the Missouri video and modern-day media

I want to be proud of my profession.

I work extremely hard five days a week (sometimes more), nine hours a day (often more) as a television news reporter. I aim to inform viewers of the goings-on of their world, educate about complex issues, and uplift through stories that connect people.

I believe in the power of journalism, and I believe in the power of journalists.

So what am I to make of this?

The link shows the 2015 results of an annual Gallup survey measuring trust in the media. The conclusion? It sits in the headline:

“Americans’ Trust in Media Remains at Historical Low”

A mere 40% of Americans, per the poll, say they trust the media “a great deal” or “a fair amount”. Among adults under 50, that number drops to 36%. And of course, the differences skew politically, with Republicans and Independents trusting the press far less than Democrats.

But what stood out to me, more than the numbers, was a potential reason for them, provided by the article’s author:

Americans’ trust level in the media has drifted downward over the past decade. The same forces behind the drop in trust in government more generally, as well confidence in many U.S. institutions, may also be at work with the media.

I found that quite perceptive. Within the industry, we like to think of ourselves of voices for the voiceless; I work at a station whose tagline is “Holding the Powerful Accountable”, and we aim every day to live up to that mission.

But for many outside the industry, “the media” is as much an institution as government. Journalists have a great deal of control.

We are the powerful.

I was reminded of that as I watched the video of University of Missouri students — and several faculty members — trying to stop a student photographer from covering their #ConcernedStudent1950 protest. In a legal sense, the photographer was entirely correct; he had as much a right as the protesters to stand on that ground. Many of the tactics used by the protesters — claiming a violation of personal space while simultaneously violating the photographer’s; yelling at and pushing him while decrying his supposed lack of respect — were wrong and downright hypocritical. Even now, days later, when I watch that video, I abhor what I see.

I have heard many journalists make those absolutely valid points.

But I have heard far fewer in my field turn the focus inward.

That video highlights an issue just as critical as the rights of journalists: a widespread contempt of those journalists’ jobs.

“I’m documenting history!” shouts the photographer. The protesters don’t care, and what’s more, they say, plenty have already done that. Individuals can take photos and spread them to their own social networks; they are not particularly wowed by that ability in reporters.

“You are an unethical reporter!” yells one protester, who — despite the students’ and faculty members’ earlier attempts to encourage media coverage — possesses no faith in that media to tell their story correctly.

Then comes the point no one makes on camera, but that others have made since: Where was all this attention before the university’s football team got involved? A few dozen athletes captured the national focus where a far greater number of passionate students could not. How does that reflect on the media’s true interest in finding and telling stories that matter?

I want to again make clear I am not criticizing the student photographers in that video. If anything, I admire them for knowing their rights, standing their ground against a steady stream of bullying, and wanting indeed to document history.

But the video also slams home the point that, for so many, the media is the voice of power — and a voice that cannot be trusted.

(And this is by no means isolated. Look at the way in which Republican presidential candidates blistered the media — and to much applause — during a recent debate. Media mistrust is not necessarily a partisan view.)

In the Washington Post, Terrell Jermaine Starr makes incisive points about how journalists should respond after seeing the Missouri video. Among them:

Further, as reporters, we have to drop our sense of entitlement and understand that not everyone wants to be subjects of our journalism. Our press passes don’t give us the license to bully ourselves into any and all spaces where our presence is not appreciated. It’s one thing to demand access to public lands; it’s another to demand access to people’s grieving.

While Starr speaks specifically about why the black community in general may feel mistrustful of reporters, he writes with an underlying point that should be a central tenet of our field:

If journalism is about reaching an audience, journalists should constantly examine how we interact with that audience — and whether we build or damage our credibility in the process.

I know I am guilty of that entitlement. I assume I will receive a warm welcome at an event, and many times I don’t. I assume people will support my intent to convey their stories to a larger audience, and many times they don’t. I assume people will immediately acquiesce when faced with my legal justification for doing my job, and many times they don’t.

I assume the people I interview will believe in my profession as much as I do.

More often than not, they don’t.

But I still do.

Journalists absolutely possess plenty of power in the present day, from mass media companies to independent bloggers to college photographers. We should continue to cover the stories that matter, even if our collective presence is not always appreciated.

But we must also regularly discuss where the line falls between journalistic duty and humanistic decency. I side with the photographers here, but I have also witnessed numerous instances where media members invade people’s space and privacy for stories with far less gravity. We must approach our jobs with sensitivity to how we are perceived, and we cannot wait to have these conversations until one of us “becomes the story”.

The best storytellers, today and down the road, will be the ones who understand their viewers and readers — and make the extra effort to earn their audience’s respect.

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: Starring Team Ortho, Kyle Korver, & laughter

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.

Running for a cause? (11/12/15, KARE-TV): One of the hardest jobs in reporting for television? Making investigative stories look good.

TV stories are often built around moments, and with many pieces, one finds those moments naturally and visually. Investigative journalists must produce those moments informationally and confrontationally — a much tougher task in a visual medium.

In this piece, KARE 11’s A.J. Lagoe and Steve Eckert show how it’s done.

Uncovering deception and monetary misuse from a local non-profit, the duo layers this story with “Didja see that?” moments. Eckert edits nicely the sequence that shows the misuse of funds over several years, and Lagoe leaves the viewer with a jaw-dropper through his final revelation and confrontation with the man behind the non-profit.

(more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #36: David McRaney, “You Are Not So Smart”

Play

Remember those commercials where a poor sap cannot stop raving about the delivery pizza he is eating, only to be scolded: “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno”?

That’s how I feel at the beginning of every episode of “You Are Not So Smart”.

The podcast delves into various concepts of psychology, but it almost always opens with a pop culture example that both illustrates and introduces each episode’s topic … not unlike what I just did with the DiGiorno example.

But after host David McRaney lures you in with clips from Mad Men or the Twilight Zone, he provides a beautiful hour or so of discussion and conversation that connects on a much more sophisticated level.

McRaney is my guest on Episode #36 of the Telling The Story podcast.

I reached out to McRaney because I was impressed with both his expertise as a storyteller and his versatility in the field. This is a guy who once owned a pet store (twice!), but he transitioned to journalism and carved out an utterly unique path. He has written for a handful of popular web sites, but he has become most prolific through “You Are Not So Smart”, which before it became a podcast started as a blog and continued as a book. From his home base of Hattiesburg, Miss., McRaney has built an empire that has opened the door to opportunities.

What makes his show such a success? McRaney credits, at least partly, his subject matter. “These are heady topics that appeal to the lowest common denominator,” he says, “in that everybody is interested in why we think the things we think.”

But McRaney did not reach 200,000 Facebook followers thanks to topic alone. He reached it through exposure, likability, and superb storytelling.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Adele, Drake, & Taylor

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.

Adele: Inside her private life and triumphant return (11/3/15, Rolling Stone): I usually resist articles like these.

I usually possess no interest in reading them.

I usually skip profiles of musicians because they seem so phony: carefully stage-managed attempts by pop stars to appear “real” and “authentic”, promoted by writers and magazines who claim to have received earth-shattering revelations. I clicked on this article, a Rolling Stone cover story about Adele, with low expectations (despite a major affection for Adele’s music).

I was wrong.

Brian Hiatt writes a piece that is compelling from start to finish, thanks in large part to its subject. Adele holds back little and swears a lot, but she mostly projects an image free of pretense, showing a naked acknowledgement of the many puppet strings of the music industry. Whereas many pop stars, in articles like these, reflect on more gossipy drama, Adele discusses motherhood, sexism, and journalism. Hiatt composes a piece that sets up these moments and flows beautifully from quote to quote.

(more…)

3 more podcasts I love in 2015

Two months ago, I had a great idea for a blog post.

As I thought about the many ways in which I consumed news and information, I came to a surprising revelation: I listen to podcasts more than ever.

Rarely did a day go by without me loading up Stitcher radio and pressing “Play” on a podcast. While I enjoyed many popular choices (This American Life, On the Media, 99% Invisible), I also felt I had discovered several series that had not yet pierced the mainstream.

So I blogged about it, listing three podcasts I loved that had hit their stride this year.

That was in September.

Now it’s November, and another revelation has arrived: I have discovered even more great podcasts bubbling up in my feed.

Perhaps I simply crave podcasts more than most. Or perhaps the podcasting industry is developing at an extreme rate, with increasing quality and diversity.

So two months after listing three podcasts I love, here are three more I love; I hope you feel the same way.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring pop songs, pizza, & football

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.

Hit charade (October 2015, The Atlantic): How much do you want to know about how a chef prepares your meal? What about how a litany of behind-the-scenes employees prepare your favorite songs?

The answers to the latter come from this absorbing article, written by Nathaniel Rich for The Atlantic (with a major hat-tip to author John Seabrook, whose book The Song Machine supplies much of Rich’s material). With no concern for spoiling or party-pooping, Rich dives into the factories that produce, with seeming cold-hearted machinery, an increasing number of the hits that grace the Billboard charts.

Much of this story’s success derives from its thoroughness; Rich, through Seabrook, dives into the subject with great detail. It shows in paragraphs like this, including some wit from a writer basically saying Santa Claus isn’t real:

Pop hitmakers frequently flirt with plagiarism, with good reason: Audiences embrace familiar sounds. Sameness sells. Dr. Luke in particular has been accused repeatedly of copyright infringement. His defense: “You don’t get sued for being similar. It needs to be the same thing.” (Dr. Luke does get sued for being similar, and quite often; he has also countersued for defamation.) Complicating the question of originality is the fact that only melodies, not beats, can be copyrighted. This means a producer can sell one beat to multiple artists.

(more…)