3 GREAT STORIES: Starring ATL, Mad Men, & a new heart

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.

If we win again, we’ll be one again (4/21/15, Bitter Southerner): This one falls under the category of, “I only heard about it this week, but it actually came out nearly a month ago, but that’s OK, because it’s wonderful.”

Leave it to the Bitter Southerner to bring forth a beautifully written article from a veteran journalist about the changing landscape of Atlanta sports. Ray Glier discusses how, as baseball’s Braves prepare to move out of the city and into the nearest suburbs, basketball’s Hawks have seen a renaissance this year, on the court and in the stands.

Glier wrote all this before the Hawks advanced to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, and his prose, in retrospect, seems all the more prescient. Glier blends the right amount of lofty wordplay and contextual background, while the web site’s Gregory Miller provides magnetic photos.

The pipe dream of a perfect television finale (5/15/15, New York Times): Few frivolous events stoke the fires like TV finales.

If you have grown attached to a great series, you are both sad to see it go and anxious about how it will end.

Lindsey Weber delves into that topic in this week’s New York Times magazine, and she hits all the right notes. Her newsworthy peg is the finale of AMC’s Mad Men, but she uses it to examine how other series, both comedies and dramas, have concluded their respective runs. Fittingly, her best paragraph here is her final one:

Perhaps the solution is for all of us to agree to simply let finales mean less. If these prestige cable dramas occupy the cultural space previously held by the novel, as many people have suggested, then we should judge them the way we would a good book: for their entirety, not just the kicker. Why do we value a series finale over a perfect pilot, or a particularly gripping character arc, or that “Mad Men” episode when a John Deere riding mower accidentally ran over that guy’s foot at a Sterling Cooper party? After all, a month or two after the post-finale flurry of takes subsides, after the blog posts have been written, we won’t be worrying about whatever happened at the end. We’ll open up Netflix and start rewatching, right from the beginning.

Lancaster family meets recipient of son’s heart (5/13/15, WBNS-TV): Full disclosure: one of my most treasured stories — and, at nearly nine minutes, easily one of my longest — came seven years ago in Buffalo, when I profiled a local family that got to meet the recipient of the heart of its loved one.

This story, from reporter Kevin Landers and photographer Andy Wallace at 10TV in Columbus, mirrors that subject matter almost entirely, right down to the family members using a stethoscope to hear their son’s heart beating in the body of its new owner.

Landers and Wallace do one major thing very differently, and I don’t know if I agree with it. They choose to show the story’s biggest moment — where the two sides meet for the first time, followed by the stethoscope — before actually introducing us to the heart recipient. Those peak moments are already touching enough, but I feel they would have hit even harder if we had learned the back stories of both sides first.

But I cannot argue otherwise. Landers writes some beautiful lines here and punctuates the initial, dramatic hug with just enough poignant words to elevate it even more. Both journalists clearly put a tremendous amount of thought into this story, which will likely make you smile if it doesn’t make you cry.

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

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