3 GREAT STORIES: Long live the local news feature

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.

Confession: I love watching a good local TV news feature.

Whereas many stories on television are so serious, these stories bring the levity. Also, because they deal with lighter topics, they often bring out more creative storytelling, since  reporters and photojournalists can have a bit more fun with them.

Enjoy the following three features — partly for their storytelling, but also because they will likely make you smile.

Frankfort senior’s dream of flying takes flight (7/4/13, WKYT-TV):  I did not love everything about this story. Specifically, I did not love the first 90 seconds. Reporter Sean Moody and photojournalist John Wilson tell a perfectly fine story about a senior citizen who reminisces beautifully about her departed husband.

It is an OK start but not totally unfamiliar ground and not particularly memorable.

And then the hot-air balloon comes in.

You quickly learn that the senior in question, Jean Broome, has been offered the opportunity — by her nursing home — to ride in a hot-air balloon; it is her “next trip” after taking so many adventures with her husband. Then the photography gets gorgeous, the writing gets truly poignant, and the personality of the story’s subject comes out in droves.

Again, the first minute-and-a-half of this story is fine on its own. But the last two minutes are outstanding, and the feature as a whole will absolutely warm your heart.

Skee Ball league rolling into Milwaukee (6/30/13, WITI-TV): And then, there’s this.

I cannot say for sure that a story about a bar-room Skee Ball league will warm your heart. It will more likely make you laugh — or say, “What the …”

But give credit to reporter Jeremy Ross and his photojournalist for taking a seemingly one-note story and making it move  for nearly three minutes. That comes from variety — the different shots of the game, and the different characters discovered. And variety comes from hard work on the part of the storytellers involved.

Milwaukee couple to launch own line of handmade hats (6/30/13, WITI-TV): This coming Wednesday, I will unveil the 6th episode of the “Telling The Story” podcast, featuring Roman Mars, creator and producer of the 99% Invisible podcast.

Among Mars’ many jewels about storytelling craft, he discusses the importance of storytellers conveying their passion for their subjects they cover.

In this story, you can feel, not passion, perhaps, but appreciation.

Reporter Mike Lowe and photojournalist Jon Reidy tell the story of a Mad Men-style hat specialist in Milwaukee, which is unique in itself. But the duo get creative. Witness the framing of the main subject’s interview. Witness the line about investors “losing their shirts” in the economy crash of 2008, or any of the number of take-it-or-leave-it hat puns. Lowe and Reidy seem to be having fun here — and they possess the skills to translate that fun into a quirky, enjoyable story.

(One more note on this: I went to college with Lowe, and he had the same powerful voice back then. He could be a Mad Men character himself.)


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

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