3 GREAT STORIES: Starring DeAndre, Elsa, & Chattanooga

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.

DeAndre Jordan’s round trip (7/14/15, ESPN.com): Last week I smothered praise upon Grantland NBA writer Zach Lowe for landing such a huge interview in the wake of DeAndre Jordan re-signing with the Clippers.

And while Lowe’s interview remains a great get, two of his colleagues at ESPN came through this week with what will go down as the definitive story behind Jordan’s big decision.

Ramona Shelburne and Tim McMahon, who cover the Clippers and Mavericks, respectively, used all their source-power to put together a day-by-day chronicle of what went on behind the scenes. Jordan signed with the Mavs, had second thoughts, met with coaches and teammates from the Clippers, and set off a frenzy of social media activity that had the whole basketball-following world ablaze. Shelburne and McMahon talk to nearly every key player in this story (with the notable exception of Jordan himself, who has yet to say much), and they produce a tremendous read.

Elsa’s story (7/17/15, Denver Post): “Wow.”

That was all I could say after watching the “Elsa’s Story” documentary presented this week by the Denver Post.

The video accompanies a powerful article of the same name about 9-year-old Elsa, who “insisted as soon as she could speak that she was a girl, even though she was assigned male at birth.” The story truly revolves around the evolving acceptance of Elsa’s parents, specifically her mother, who essentially narrates the 16-minute documentary.

Sixteen minutes may seem like a long time to stare at a computer screen or focus on one’s cell phone, but the time pays off. The documentary’s length allows the viewer to process its images and words, in some ways journeying along with Elsa’s mother as she describes her struggle to understand Elsa’s maturation.

The video is full of poignant moments, most of which come from home movies of Elsa through childhood. Credit the Post’s Mahala Gaylord for the video and Jen Brown for the article — and the Post itself for investing such time and resources into a standout story.

Chattanooga gunman’s past reveals few signs of rancor (7/17/15, Los Angeles Times): Early on in this story about the latest act of what officials are calling “domestic terrorism”, the journalists writing the article acknowledge the unavoidable nature of what comes next:

Now, law enforcement officials are embarking on a task that has become familiar with each U.S. mass shooting: studying the background, the movements and the online meanderings of the killer to find a motive.

The three reporters here do the same, and the Times’ Richard A. Serrano, Christine Mai-Duc, and Tina Susman present a thorough, poignant portrait of the man who opened fire at a military recruiting center. Mohammod Abdulazeez is described here as a rule-following Muslim boy who, while growing into a man, lost his faith, lost his way, and lost himself.

This is not an easy story to tell, but these three reporters do a powerful job of telling it.

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

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