3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Bill Kennedy, ethics, & hip-hop

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.

The official coming-out party (10/12/16, ESPN): Rarely have I seen a story whose tone is set immediately by its opening photo.

But upon clicking on the above link, you will be confronted with not words but a full-screen snapshot of a recent Pride Parade — with one figure on a float towering above the crowd, in both height and happiness.

He is Bill Kennedy, an NBA referee who came out last winter after a player described him with a homophobic slur.

As you scroll down, you will find 7,000+ words from versatile ESPN scribe Kevin Arnovitz, who provides some of the site’s best analysis and, in this case, a compelling portrait. He fills his profile of Kennedy with revealing anecdotes and morsels. He describes Kennedy’s complicated existence as a gay man in a high-profile job, constantly monitoring who among his colleagues and connections knew of his sexual orientation.

Arnovitz deserves credit for a masterful story. But it starts with that first photo, taken by David Dow, which displays Kennedy’s newfound comfort and happiness better than any word.

Weighing the decision to publish new allegations against Trump (10/13/16, Poynter): Watching the political discourse in the past few weeks, particularly on the cable news channels, one could be excused for wanting to withdraw from election coverage.

But in the midst of the chaos, I always appreciate articles that aim for clarity.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride examine the spate of sexual misconduct allegations against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But they do so from a big-picture perspective, focusing on the responsibility of journalists when such allegations come forward. Tompkins and McBride break down how similar situations have been handled in the past; they then offer their own conclusions on how news outlets should proceed.

Is this rap’s real golden age? (10/14/16, Washington Post): One of the least appreciated jobs in reporting is doing the story that explains a niche trend to a mass audience. The fans of the trend tend to find these articles too dumbed-down and obvious, while many in the mass audience simply reject the trend regardless.

Chris Richards of the Washington Post thus faces a no-win scenario as he pens this piece about the rise of a new crop of hip-hop stars in the past few years. Look at the article’s comments, and you’ll wonder if he succeeds; most Post readers immediately denounce rap as “not music” and dismiss Richards’ story as a waste.

I see it differently.

First of all, rap at this point is far beyond “trend” status. Richards is spot-on when he says it has “long been the dominant style of American pop.” His piece does a great job of breaking down the latest trajectories and rising artists. It benefits from a smooth visual presentation from the Post, but Richards provides enough context and unique nuggets to, in my eyes, overcome his story’s basic challenge.

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

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

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