Monthly Archives: April 2015

PODCAST EPISODE #29: Clive Thompson, writer, Smarter Than You Think

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Reading Clive Thompson is a markedly different experience than hearing Clive Thompson.

On paper (or more likely, online), his work is measured and precise. The freelance journalist has written about technology and language for Wired, New York Times magazine, the Washington Post, and a handful of other publications. He is the author of Smarter Than You Think, a terrific book about how technology has affected the way we think, remember, and operate — for the better.

I have already written about Thompson twice this year for a pair of noteworthy stories that pair appreciation for history with enthusiasm for the future. In each article, he appears in full command of the language he studies so much, and his energy hits home largely because it is harnessed and presented in such a thoughtful way.

In an audio interview setting, that energy comes unbound.

Thompson joins me on Episode #29 of the Telling The Story podcast, and he comes ready to play. Discussing the evolution of language, his career as a writer, and his advice for aspiring journalists, Thompson blazes through sentences with nary a breath in-between. He carries a passion that extends everywhere, from extolling the virtues of AOL Instant Messenger to testifying his love for guitar pedals.

In other words, if you hold on tight to this interview, you will enjoy the ride. And you will gain some great insight from one of the more decorated and enjoyable writers working today.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring kids and sweet moments

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.

Little League dedicates field to fallen Thornton soldier (4/18/15, KUSA-TV): The May sweeps period in local TV news has officially begun.

This means, as in previous ratings months, newsrooms nationwide are rolling out some of their juiciest, most heavily produced work.

But sometimes the best stories can be done in a day, and this week I saw three memorable pieces that only required a standard shift.

Here is one from KUSA-TV reporter Jessica Oh and photographer Andrew Christman. Given little to work with visually, they find a way through poignant writing and editing to elevate a relatively straightforward story.

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A storyteller’s trip to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni

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.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Kenya, Clinton, & a dog

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.

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.

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PODCAST EPISODE #28: Michael DelGiudice, photographer, WNBC-TV

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Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of weeks in a year.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of Super Bowls.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number in a famous Beatles song.

Michael DelGiudice, during his 30-year career in television, has won 65 regional Emmys.

The photographer has captured a slew of other awards as well, and he was just named this year’s NPPA Photographer of the Year for the East Top region — an extraordinary honor in what he calls “a dogfight” of a competition.

But what most impresses me about DelGiudice is not his award count but his location.

He has achieved this type of success, and preached the gospel of storytelling, in the largest market in the country: New York City.

The Big Apple has a reputation for wanting the hardest of news; its stations fly through their newscasts, rarely staying on one story for very long. But within those parameters, DelGiudice — along with the reporters who work alongside him — has developed his own reputation as a photographer who finds humanity in his subjects.

He joins me on Episode #28 of the Telling The Story podcast.

DelGiudice and I discuss his tried-and-true techniques, tips for younger journalists, and the ups and downs of working in a market that swarms with media. He is a New York native (it shows in his voice), and he has made a tremendous living in his home city.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Walter Scott, police, & Hannibal Buress

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.

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 week, maybe 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.

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5 lessons from the NPPA’s best video stories of 2014

Effort.

It’s the one through-line of every great story I see.

Television news constantly forces the hands of the people who bring it. At various points throughout the evolution of a story, a reporter, photographer, or multimedia journalist must decide when they have done enough:

Did I do every interview I can do for this story, or do I need to find another?

Do I have enough footage for this story, or do I need to shoot more?

Is this script exactly as I want it, or should I read over it again?

How much time do I have to keep editing, or do I need to submit my story for air?

These are the questions that daily confront TV news journalists, and they are often answered by the ticking clock of the deadline. But more than that, they come down to effort.

I thought about this frequently as I watched this year’s video winners for the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism awards.

In each one, I saw numerous moments that only succeeded because the winning photographer made an extra piece of effort, be it during the gathering or editing process.

This year, I was one of those winning photographers; as I mentioned last week, I received 1st place in the category of Solo Video Journalism: General News. I won for the story of a Madison County, Ga. man who rescued a baby on the side of the road; the piece went viral and aired, in slightly edited form, on NBC Nightly News. As I wrote then, that story is a quintessential example of the value of effort.

Here are four other winning entries that I found particularly powerful — and the lessons I took from them: (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Playing catch-up from March

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.

Devil’s Rope (3/17/15, 99% Invisible): I took a few weeks off in March to go on vacation and retool the web site.

But I continued to watch, read, and listen to great journalism and storytelling.

I decided to use this week’s edition of “3 Great Stories” to play catch-up and spotlight several pieces that stood out to me last month. This podcast, from the terrific Roman Mars, follows the 99% Invisible formula to beautiful effect, outlining a historical problem (cattle and buffalo wandering too freely during the 19th century, as Americans moved to the Great Plains) and teasing the eventual solution (the invention of barbed wire). That solution, of course, opens the door to a whole host of angles and anecdotes that fill the rest of the episode.

As I listened, I kept thinking, “I really don’t care that much about barbed wire. But I can’t turn this off!” Mars and his team are such potent storytellers, and I always enjoy listening to 99% Invisible from that standpoint alone.

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