3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Batman, Oregon, & Tamir Rice

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.

Batman (1/9/15, NPR’s This American Life): Whenever I listen to This American Life on NPR, I marvel at its producers’ ability to consistently find truly fascinating stories.

They then turn those stories into enthralling hour-long programs.

This month’s “Batman” episode fills the bill. I actually rolled my eyes a bit at the title and constant references to the super-hero, which seemed somewhat forced and even subjective in glamorizing the program’s main subject.

But that subject — a blind man who can ride bikes and hike, among other things — and the program’s overall examination of the capabilities of the blind make for a superb listen. Producers Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller weave their way through a story that absorbs from start to finish.

Oregon was founded as a racist utopia (1/21/15, Gizmodo): This story was more than absorbing.

It was downright shocking.

Gizmodo writer Matt Novak discusses in-depth how the state of Oregon was founded “with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926,” he writes.

I had no idea about Oregon’s origins, and Novak would have been applauded if he stopped there. But he goes deeper, tying the state’s racist beginnings to its modern-day make-up. In the process he makes numerous cutting observations about how the past begets the present.

In Tamir Rice case, many errors by Cleveland police, then a fatal one (1/22/15, New York Times): Here is another in-depth examination, this time of a modern-day story.

And, as is so often the case, a pair of writers for the New York Times present a riveting examination.

Writers Shaila Dewan and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. discuss the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer. They break down the event from start to finish, highlighting various Cleveland P.D. mistakes along the way. They tie the event to larger issues faced by the department, such as during the following passage:

For Cleveland residents, the shooting highlighted another longstanding problem: The department’s community policing programs had been whittled down to a token effort, a result of cuts a decade earlier that might well have made a life-or-death difference to Tamir. A sign on a telephone pole yards from where he was shot down still advertises a police mini-station in the nearby recreation center where he played basketball. The station is long gone.

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

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