3 GREAT STORIES: Starring carillon bells, typos, & James Foley

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 voice of Baylor (8/20/14, KCEN-TV): Maybe this story started with an unfair advantage.

It is about the carillon bells that ring atop a magnificent building at Baylor University. It is also about the woman who plays them, but the bells are clearly the stars of the show.

Because once they start chiming, they have a hypnotic effect.

Reporter Chris Davis and photojournalist Bryan Wendland produce a story of nearly four minutes length. Given the feature-like subject matter and relative lack of substance, they could have easily told the story in half the time.

But half the time would miss the point.

This story flies by, mainly because everything flows so beautifully: Davis’ short sentences, quick sound bites, nicely timed edits and beautifully framed shots, and, of course, the bells, which provide the constant soothing energy that moves the piece.

In many ways, the bells have the effect on the viewer that they have on everyone in the story. That’s pretty impressive.

What’s up with that: why it’s so hard to catch your own typos (8/12/14, Wired): A week after dropping their exclusive Edward Snowden interview on the world, the folks at Wired return with a piece that is far more frivolous — and far more consistent with its usual content.

Writer Nick Stockton discusses the science behind why writers make typos; he does so as part of the “What’s Up With That?” series that answers everyday questions with a technological bent.

Parts of this piece seem self-congratulatory towards writers, such as when Stockton writes, “The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart.” Mostly, though, he puts a clever lens on a seemingly mundane subject, almost like a short-form, tech-based Freakonomics. It’s good stuff.

James Foley’s choices (8/22/14, New Yorker): Easily one of the most heartbreaking events during a truly upsetting month of news, the beheading of American James Foley has led to some incisive journalism.

In this piece, the New Yorker’s Mark Singer provides a multi-dimensional portrait about who Foley was and why he felt compelled to go to foreign countries to cover such potentially dangerous events.

More impressively, Singer does this with a relative lack of space.

This is a short article, but Singer does not waste a moment. He talks of how Foley had gone to Libya several years earlier and had been held by the Qaddafi regime for 44 days. And he ends with a quote from Foley that is so upsetting given what ultimately happened.

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

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