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.

#3) Cars fly on the Fourth of July (7/5/16, Alaska Dispatch News): In my network of visual journalists, this story has had everybody buzzing.

Legendary photographer Scott Jensen, working at the Alaska Dispatch News, goes the extra mile and then some in this piece about a small town in Alaska that has a unique tradition on Independence Day: sending several cars over a cliff.

Jensen uses a cadre of cameras, thanks to advance planning that can be seen in this making-of video, and captures this ridiculous event from seemingly every angle — despite working by himself. I cannot say enough about the mastery involved here. The degree of difficulty in a story like this is skyscraper-level high, but Jensen pulls it off because of superior understanding of just about every aspect of storytelling, from maneuvering his gear to capturing moments with precision and joy.

#2) Only in Indiana: The Awakening (4/6/16, WTHR-TV): One of the best storytelling tandems in local news has produced a gem.

Reporter Kevin Rader and photographer Steve Rhodes always craft powerful, joyous stories for WTHR-TV’s “Only in Indiana” segment. In this case, they turn their gaze to a young boy named Elias, blind and deaf since birth, and his “awakening” with a musical instrument.

To say much more would mean spoiling a truly beautiful piece. Rader offers tender narration while Rhodes provides his usual exquisite editing; I have profiled these two before, and I have no doubt I will mention them again in this space before too long.

#1) High school runner disqualified for helping foe (11/30/16, KARE-TV): Leading into this story, the news anchor at KARE-TV describes its main event as “terrifying but touching”.

When the story ends, and the camera returns to the anchor, she is holding back tears — as is the weatherperson standing next to her.

For what it’s worth, so was I when I watched this beautiful piece from Boyd Huppert.

I have shouted out Huppert quite a bit on this page, and so often I applaud his ability to find the beauty in stories where it might not seem obvious. In this case, though, the touching moment — and I won’t spoil it — is vivid and caught on video, and Huppert deftly writes around it to let it shine.

Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.


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.

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