3 GREAT STORIES: All about Nelson Mandela

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.

In the days following the passing of Nelson Mandela, I have been extremely impressed with its coverage.

Perspective pieces have come from every direction, with many writers and media outlets stepping up to the challenge of memorializing a man as complex as Mandela.

I could change the name of this column to “12 Great Stories” this week, but instead I will focus on the three that provided unique takes and perhaps were overlooked:

Nelson Mandela: Tribute to an icon (12/5/13, Mail and Guardian Online): The most definitive and thorough coverage of Mandela’s passing has naturally come from his homeland.

The Mail and Guardian Online created an entire site as a tribute to Mandela, an eternal hero in his native land of South Africa. Obviously, with Mandela at 95 years old and recently in failing health, many publications prepared ahead of time for this occasion. In this case, the “Tribute to an icon” site has virtually everything one could want.

This applies to history both past and present.

The site unearths video and photos from decades ago, but it also includes plenty of social media options and guestbooks for South Africans (and others) to leave their memories of Madiba. Combine those elements with powerful articles and essays, and you have unquestionably comprehensive coverage of a national icon.

“This is the field” (12/5/13, ESPN.com): ESPN.com also took advantage of its resources, pooling together a series of essays looking back at Mandela’s life.

Oddly, the piece I appreciated most made Mandela a supporting character.

Wright Thompson tells the story of a different South African freedom fighter, Sedick Isaacs, who served in the same prison at the same time as Mandela. Isaacs told Thompson about the soccer league that formed among the prisoners; he also noted that Mandela was not allowed to play, and that the guards even built a wall so that Mandela could not see the matches.

Of all the tributes to Mandela, very few offer such a poignant glimpse into his life in prison.

Also, very few are as beautifully written. Credit Thompson with a powerful story.

“Welcome home”: Mandela’s 1990 visit to Atlanta rained adoration (12/5/13, Atlanta Journal-Constitution): One of the best angles on Mandela’s passing came from my home city.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writers Shelia Poole and Ernie Suggs look back on Mandela’s first visit to Atlanta, an iconic moment in the city’s history. They do all their homework here, with a thorough and compelling look at the behind-the-scenes action and bubbling enthusiasm at play.

I am extremely impressed with the insights and nuggets in this article. Poole and Suggs touch on everything, from Mandela’s cult hero status in Atlanta to the political jockey surrounding one of his appearances. In short, they provide perspective and provoke thought — exactly what journalists are supposed to do.


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

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