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.
We have reached the halfway point of 2015, which has brought about some strong journalism about riveting topics. With that in mind, the time is right for some “Best Of” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.
I posted my three favorite written stories of the year so far next week. This week, my three favorite audio/video pieces from January through June, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:
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.
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.
But I continued to watch, read, and listen to great journalism and storytelling.
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.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.