3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2014, 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.

Having done the “3 Great Stories” segment all year long, I now face the challenge of picking my favorites.

But I have picked them, and here they are.

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 2014, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

#3) Knox County man builds backyard roller-coaster — again (10/29/14, WTHR-TV): I will say it simply: this story is one of the finest TV features I have seen in a long time.

The “plot” is simple, summed up in the above headline. A rural Indiana man has gained worldwide fame for a roller-coaster he built in his own backyard. Most stations might assign a reporting crew to tell the story in 90 seconds; it might make a nice feature but then fade from memory quickly afterwards.

Not this station, and not this story.

Reporter Kevin Rader and photographer Steve Rhodes put an extraordinary amount of care into this piece, and it shows in every loving touch. They reveal a new layer of the story every minute, and they present their subject, named John Ivers, in the context of both his creation (the roller-coaster) and his community.

I challenge you to watch this and not crack a smile.

#2) Qatar’s World Cup (6/1/14, ESPN): This story is absolutely brutal.

In 17 minutes, it will anger you, frustrate you, and do everything short of flatten your heart.

And it is a masterpiece.

Jeremy Schaap and the ESPN team provide a startling look at the working conditions in Qatar, the country that will host the 2022 World Cup. Qatari leaders pledged to put billions upon billions behind it, all while treating their laborers — according to the interview subjects in this piece — like modern slaves.

Credit ESPN for using its expansive resources to do all the necessary legwork for this story — traveling not just to Qatar but Nepal, sending Schaap and a camera crew to Qatari labor camps and risking their arrests in the process, and allowing 17 on-air minutes for the storytellers to do their jobs.

And they do those jobs remarkably well.

#1) Ferguson: Why can’t we talk? (11/14/14, KSDK-TV): Speaking of context and struggle, I don’t think I have seen a better story this year than this one, which covers both.

This comes from “3 Great Stories” mainstay Boyd Huppert and photographer Jeff Christian, who put together this beautiful tapestry of individual stories and perspectives in order to tackle the overarching question of racial tension in St. Louis.

Everything about this story is exquisite, from Huppert’s usual sensitive writing to Christian’s pristine editing; not a single shot, sound bite, or line of script is wasted here. The duo give this story the treatment it deserves, and they produce a poignant story as a result.

Young storytellers, or any storyteller: watch this story, and watch it again.

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