3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Starring blind dogs, disabilities, and the national pastime

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.

Three stories.

Three extremely different examples of storytelling.

One story takes two minutes to watch; the second, roughly ten minutes to read; the third, nearly an hour to hear.

One story is light and heartwarming; the second, informative and mind-expanding; the third, serious and soul-shaking.

One story succeeds through its sweet visuals; the second, through sheer research; the third, through a mix of thorough reporting, detailed interviewing, and personal storytelling.

Each story works, and works well. You may find yourself talking about all of them this week.

Blind Lab Has His Own Guide Dog (3/25/13, NBC’s Today Show): Here’s the thing: I actually did not like a lot of the storytelling in this piece.

Mainly, I could not stand the music, and the story did not need it.

But every time I thought about turning this story off, I was pulled back in by (A) the cuteness of the dogs, or (B) the unfolding of the story. NBC’s Annabel Roberts brings this joyful piece from Wales, U.K., and with the exception of the music, she wisely lets the dogs do the, um, talking.

How Much More Do Baseball Players Make Today? (3/28/13, The Awl): Writer Brent Cox sets the tone early in this lengthy but compelling feature about salaries in Major League Baseball. His first, very accurate, line? “It’s almost impossible to think of baseball without thinking of money.”

I loved Cox’s attention to detail (in one aside, he humorously and correctly credits baseball for the existence of Nate Silver) and fact-checking on time-honored baseball tales. He did a thorough job on a not-so-new subject; he offers a worthy read as the 2013 baseball season begins.

Trends With Benefits (3/22/13, NPR’s This American Life): Get past the pun-based title, and then get ready for a riveting report.

Reporter Chana Joffe-Walt documents the rapid rise in the number of Americans receiving federal disability payments. The episode of “This American Life” has already received intense reaction from those on the right and left. You will react to it as well, as Joffe-Walt combines a mountain of information and statistics with moving individual examples.

Here is an example where a reporter received plenty of time on her assignment, both in terms of production (Joffe-Walt worked on the project for six months) and story length (it’s an hour long). Joffe-Walt makes the most of that time; her numbers are rock-solid, and her examples are powerful while not feeling cherry-picked.

In short, she puts forth a report that keeps you engaged the entire time.

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

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