Monthly Archives: November 2014

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 11/24-11/28

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As the sun sets on the fall season, I decided to show some classic photos of sunset in Atlanta — specifically, at the outstanding Piedmont Park in the city’s Midtown area.

Enjoy, and have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

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PODCAST EPISODE #22: Dr. Paul J. Zak, on the science of storytelling

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I have had numerous conversations with storytellers and journalists about why storytelling works.

But until recently, I had never thought about having that conversation with a neuroscientist.

A few weeks ago, I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling”. The author? A professor at Claremont Graduate University named Dr. Paul J. Zak.

I found the article compelling and reached out to the professor. He responded, and he joins me on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

Zak’s lab recently studied the ability of stories — through numerous forms and media — to develop oxytocin in the brains of their viewers. Oxytocin, says Zak, “is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others.”

Here are the big three rules for producing the finest in oxytocin-inducing work:

1) You have 20 seconds to get my attention. Rick Reilly once wrote, “Without a good lead, they”ll never appreciate your death-defying twinkle-toe transition in the third paragraph.” According to Dr. Zak, the science bears this out. Storytellers have a brief window to grab their viewers, listeners, or readers. This works regardless of medium, although, Zak says, people give print stories a little more leeway.

2) You need to provide a character to which your audience can attach. Conflict is important, too. “We avoid tension when it comes to our daily life,” says Zak, “but we love it when we’re watching a story.”

3) Don’t be afraid to get deep. A story, even of the shorter variety, benefits from emotional complexity, meaning a storyteller should try to build various storylines and themes into a piece. This revelation left me pleasantly surprised, as Zak talks about how the brain responds to ebbs and flows within even a 30-second commercial, let alone a 90-second TV news piece.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring November sweeps (Part 2)

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.

Ferguson business keeps windows clear as others board up (11/20/14, KARE-TV): We begin this week with where we left off last week: with a powerful piece about Ferguson, Mo. from the storytelling team of Boyd Huppert and Jeff Christian.

This piece is deceptively straightforward, focusing on a husband and wife who opened a burger bar one day before the shooting of Michael Brown … and have since kept it open, while other businesses have boarded up all around them.

The best TV pieces often thrive on moments — those uninterrupted glimpses that the viewer seemingly experiences right along with the subject of the story. Huppert and Christian find several of those here, helping to bring three-dimensional humanity to the coverage of Ferguson.

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#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 11/17-11/21

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

One of the crown jewels of the city of Atlanta is its botanical gardens.

And one of the crown jewels of the botanical gardens is its holiday lights display.

I do not normally go wild for holiday cheer, but here I make an exception. The display is elegant, ornate, and timeless, with unique experiences to be found every year. Here are some photos from this year’s display, which just opened this past weekend.

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Tom Brokaw, Brenda Wood, and learning from legends

An icon was in the building, and everyone knew it.

Technically, he was on the phone, but that did not matter to the 20 students in the Broadcast Writing class at Northwestern University.

We were juniors in college, we were aspiring anchors and reporters, and we were about to speak to Tom Brokaw.

The whole situation had taken everyone by surprise. We had arrived at the TV lab for our usual class, only to be greeted by the chair of our broadcast department, Joe Angotti.

“I think we’re going to be able to get Brokaw on the phone,” he announced.

Angotti, I should mention, was once Brokaw’s executive producer at NBC Nightly News. We students already knew that fact and revered Angotti accordingly, but we never expected this.

The man can just summon Tom Brokaw on an ordinary weekday afternoon? What other mystical powers does he possess?

But our questions about Angotti quickly gave way to our excitement about Brokaw.

He’s calling? Right now? About what?

And then, once the A/V folks in the journalism lab had patched Brokaw’s call to the classroom’s speaker system, we waited until …

“Hello?”

That voice — part gravel, part gravitas — confirmed our hopes. Tom Brokaw was on the line. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring November sweeps

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.

Bay Area photographer uses kite to capture bird’s-eye view (11/11/14, KGO-TV): November, in TV terms, is a giant ratings month.

Naturally, numerous local TV stations use the month to unleash some of their strongest work.

Such is the case with this clever visual piece from KGO-TV multimedia journalist Wayne Freedman. The industry veteran has received enough awards and done enough powerful stories to fill a book.

The good news is: he can practice what he preaches. Freedman tells the story of a local photographer who has published his own book, featuring photos from a camera the author attaches to a kite. Freedman uses the kite as a photographic device; he combines it with some heartfelt storytelling to produce a smile-worthy piece. (more…)

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 11/10-11/14

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

I remember my utter delight the first year I moved down south.

Accustomed to seeing the leaves change colors in September and October, I could not help but be pleasantly surprised when the fall foliage appeared in Atlanta in November.

This week, one final look at the fall colors, this time from Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon and Red Top Mountain State Parks.

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PODCAST EPISODE #21: Glenn Stout, Series Editor, Best American Sports Writing

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I have spent a lot of time on this site talking about my annual tradition.

Every year, around this time, I purchase the Best American Sports Writing anthology and go to town. I crack it open and find 25 of the year’s finest pieces of sports writing. I read them, learn from them, and get inspired by them.

While I work in television, I can honestly say I have been affected professionally by these annual collections of print journalism. I always walk away with various insights on how to connect as a storyteller, from structure to character development to perspective.

Beyond that, quite simply, I leave with a better understanding of the world. That is the inevitable result of reading 25 stories that make you ponder, wonder, and feel.

For me, the Best American Sports Writing series has always been special.

And for that reason, so is this podcast.

My guest: Glenn Stout, series editor of the Best American Sports Writing anthology. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Amazon, Isaiah Austin, & insurance

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.

The War of the Words (December 2014, Vanity Fair): It lasts six web pages and covers so much, but this story impresses me most because of its restraint.

Writing for Vanity Fair, Keith Gessen discusses the landscape surrounding the current battle between Amazon and book publishers, who feel they are being squashed by a behemoth. He gives a great summary of the current disputes; more importantly, he provides powerful context.

Isn’t it funny how Amazon was initially seen as a force of good for the publishing industry, a counterpoint to the giant chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders? Now Amazon is the giant, and in many ways, Gessen writes, its ascendance represents the more cyclical nature of business rather than a sea change. This poignant paragraph sums it up:

The dispute between Amazon and the publishers is a dispute between an e-commerce giant and companies that have for generations been printing text on paper. In some respects it is also a dispute between the East Coast and the West Coast. It is definitely a dispute between hyper-capitalism and cultural conservation. But in the end it is a dispute that comes down to different visions of the future of the written word.

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#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 11/3-11/7

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

This week’s theme? Snow. In Georgia. In November.

It happened … and I naturally chose to hike in it.

The fall colors of the north Georgia mountains faced a mighty challenge this past weekend from four inches of white. Snow fell atop the highest points in Georgia, and it created a beautiful winter wonderland. Enjoy: (more…)

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