3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Starring big data, Disney, and JFK

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.

In many, if not most, of my commentary posts, I often focus on the craft of storytelling as opposed to the research.

But I often find, especially when reading print pieces, I am drawn to those that specialize in information — especially when the information is instructive about a particular topic.

This brand of story would seem to play much better on a print or web-based medium. The authors do not have to worry about providing a visual element (although they can, especially on the web), and they can instead focus on finding the most digestible way to convey their content.

I selected two stories this week that fit that bill. One discusses the rise of “big data”; the other takes a look behind the curtain at Disney. The content in these pieces is engrossing, but it is enhanced by authors who present their information in an accessible manner.

The Rise of Big Data (May/June issue, Foreign Policy): This is a looooooong read on the web.

But it works. (That said, I assume it works much better in the actual magazine.)

Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger detail the ways in which “big data” has become a ubiquitous part of almost everything in society. I have been reading about big data for quite some time, but this is the first article that really provides a comprehensive look at the industry, its application in day-to-day society, and its potential down the road.

How Disney Creates Magic Moments And Generations of Happy Customers (4/16/13, TheCredits.org): My girlfriend has been trying to talk me into a Disney World vacation for quite some time now.

She probably just should have sent me this article.

Disney, of course, is a giant business. In this piece, Katie Manderfield reports from a Disney panel at CinemaCon and opens a window into how the institution operates.

I especially enjoyed the glimpses into how the company approaches customer service. Take this paragraph, for example:

One of the most popular questions asked at the park is: ‘What time does the 3 o’clock parade start?’ “We call it the 3 o’clock question,” Giannetta said with a chuckle. “But the quality of your response is what matters. You need to think: what are they really asking?” This might mean pointing customers towards an air-conditioned spot to relax at while waiting for the parade, or suggesting a refreshment hut, restrooms, ride suggestions, or just a little interaction. In Disneyland, customers aren’t morons for asking obvious questions; they just might need guidance; both in maneuvering the park and in creating the kinds of memories they came for in the first place.

Yearning for the Golden Age in Crisis Coverage … That Never Existed (4/25/13, Sabato’s Crystal Ball): Larry Sabato is the director for the center of politics at the University of Virginia.

The man can also craft a good Tweet.

He got my attention Thursday when he Tweeted this one-liner: “Think coverage of Boston bombing was bad? JFK assassination coverage was worse.”

That line provides the premise, and Sabato’s article delivers.

The doctor, most known for predicting election results, goes into detail about the CBS broadcast after President Kennedy’s assassination; he documents the misinformation CBS and Walter Cronkite reported as well as the general behind-the-scenes madness. It’s an educational read for those who long for the good ol’ days of news coverage.

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

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