3 GREAT STORIES: Starring drugmakers, safe spaces, & Morse code

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.

Politics of pain: drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis (9/18/16, Center for Public Integrity): The authors of this story refuse to bury the lead.

In a thorough and brutal report on various states’ efforts surrounding the current opioid crisis, reporters Liz Essley Whyte, Matthew Perrone, Geoff Mulvihill, and Ben Wieder lay it all out in the first paragraph:

“The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.”

They spend the rest of the article backing up that powerful premise.

Like any great investigative piece, the reporters here present both their methods and findings with enormous detail. They represent a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press, and they make a powerful storytelling team.


In the safe spaces on campus, no Jews allowed (9/15/16, Washington Post): In its own way, this article also tackles a complicated issue with anecdotal examples and shocking statistics.

Writer Anthony Berteaux, in a piece paraphrased for the Washington Post, describes what he calls the “normalization of anti-Semitism” on college campuses, specifically among groups largely standing up for others’ civil rights. As Berteaux describes:

“The most recent FBI hate crime report found that 58.2 percent of hate crimes motivated by religious bias were targeted at Jews. Jews make up 2.2 percent of the American population, so the FBI’s statistics make it clear that Jews are the most disproportionately attacked religious group in America.”

Berteaux supplements these numbers with stories of individuals who have experienced such comments or acts. His full article ran months earlier in The Tower; this entry for the Post feels both slimmed-down and focused — and equally as effective.


Morse code man (9/16/16, WUSA-TV): For the final piece in this week’s installment of “3 Great Stories”, let’s head in a more whimsical direction.

Scott Rensberger produces stories for a segment on Washington, DC’s WUSA-TV called “Open Road”. He finds eclectic people and places and brings them to viewers with a playful yet informative spirit. He does so here in this piece about Jim Talens, who is, per Rensberger, “one of the best Morse Code operators on the planet”.

I always enjoy stories like these because they accomplish two goals: they let me learn while making me smile. In this case, Rensberger provides both a history lesson and a feel-good feature.

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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