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.
Telling different kinds of stories requires equally varied ranges of sensitivity. Some require tenderness and care; others require aggression and investigation.
Most stories, no matter what kind, require the attention and discipline to capture the emotions of the parties involved.
This past week, I saw three pieces that stood out because of the storyteller’s ability to convey the emotions of the scene:
Heartwarming gift: Inside a little girl’s kidney transplant (5/6/13, WJW-TV Cleveland): This piece is somewhat simple in scope: the sights and sounds as a teacher donates a kidney to one of her students. Reporter/photojournalist Annette Lawless presents it in documentary form, somewhat; she keeps herself out of it and lets the people speak for themselves.
This is a bold decision … and it really works.
Lawless captures the before, during, and after of the transplant, including many of its powerful moments. But she really shines in terms of presentation: from the time-lapse at the beginning to the quick cuts in the waiting room that transition from scene to scene. With these moves, without saying a word, she drops the viewer right in the world of the story.
Black and Brown Blues (5/9/13, Grantland.com): This is a similarly emotional long-form piece, except the major emotion here is the lack of emotion.
Chuck Klosterman gets, as he puts it, “a visit inside — OK, near — the Cleveland (Browns) war room” as the NFL Draft gets going. What he finds, not surprisingly, are a bunch of folks who pretty much freeze him out and choose not to say very much of anything.
But Klosterman doesn’t fight this; he displays it, while still capturing some great nuances and moments about the NFL Draft. I found the following nugget particularly notable, where Klosterman talks about just how much the pros rely on TV coverage to tell them what’s going on:
I’m a little surprised by how much they rely on mainstream media outlets as a means for gathering information. I had always assumed there was an underreported intelligence gap between civilians and NFL executives, but that chasm is connected by the same rumor mill.
Stars on the Ceiling (5/6/13, The Moth): This is one of those examples where we veer from journalism-based stories over to straightforward first-hand storytelling. Tina McElroy Ansa is a novelist, filmmaker, teacher, and journalist; she presents a piece here that falls into none of these categories.
Through The Moth StorySLAM competition, Ansa describes her life as a child in Georgia and her father’s various attempts to make money for his family through entrepreneurial risks.
In the process, she offers poignant descriptions of her mother and father, picking up on haunting details that were captured through the lens of a child’s eyes. Ansa succeeds through her lack of polish; hers is a very real, heartfelt tale, and she lets her emotions shine through her telling of the story.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.