3 GREAT STORIES: Starring KARE-TV’s “Breaking the News”

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.

One girl’s card to “Mr. Phil” (7/11/16, KARE-TV): I live in Atlanta, Ga. and have, in my life, spent maybe a week in the Twin Cities.

But I have found myself drawn to a 30-minute local newscast coming straight from Minnesota’s strongest station.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul is regarded by many as possessing one of the most talented groups of storytellers in country, both in front of and behind the camera. Earlier this year, the station debuted a new show called “Breaking The News”, which offers an alternative way of looking at the major news in the area — and, sometimes, around the country.

The show delivers, I find, consistently thoughtful takes and treatments. Take the story above, about a third-grader who wrote a card to the “lunch man” at her school named “Mr. Phil”. That man is Philando Castile, whose death has sparked protests nationwide. In this piece, the protests get pushed aside to allow for one girl’s voice, which, in its unintentional innocence, reminds of the humanity in everyone. “Breaking the News” host Jana Shortal conducts a tender interview with the girl, 8-year-old Leila Ramgren, and photographer (and one-time Telling the Story podcast guest) Ben Garvin captures the interview with a set of cameras that enable the emotions to shine.

What makes this Baton Rouge protest photo iconic? (7/12/16, KARE-TV): If the previous story is an example of beautiful storytelling and simplicity, this one delivers a thoughtful conversation with a compelling presentation.

Reporter Chris Hrapsky examines what has become a widely spread photo: a snapshot of two police officers arriving to arrest a Baton Rouge woman, who blocked a highway while peacefully protesting. Hrapsky crams, into a two minute story, a boatload of perspective, describing how this photo has become a de facto litmus test for how people view the recent stories of police shootings:

“Some will see stoicism in the midst of heavily armed state police. Others will see a woman breaking the law, blocking a highway with police tactfully wearing heavy riot gear after five officers were killed days earlier in Dallas.”

That is a nuanced statement, which is rare enough in TV news. Even rarer is the pairing of such discussion with video that keeps the viewer engaged. But Hrapsky’s photographer uses music, multiple cameras, and that iconic photo to produce a meaningful story.

This is why people won’t shut up about Pokemon Go (7/11/16, KARE-TV): The “Breaking the News” crew can obviously handle the serious topics.

Stories like this show they can also handle the silly ones.

I watched way too many stories last week from local news friends about Pokemon Go, but this one — from reporter Boua Xiong and photographer Chad Nelson — was, by far, my favorite. Much like in the previous piece, albeit with a much lighter topic, the reporter (Xiong) writes an interesting script that explains the subject with both simplicity (Pokemon Go is an app, and here’s how it works) and depth (here’s why people cannot stop playing it). The photographer (Nelson) then presents that script with visual tricks and techniques that enable the story to stand out.

Such a formula sounds easy, but for so many stations, it proves elusive. Credit the leadership and newsroom staff at KARE11 for developing this show, supporting it, and supplying it with thought-provoking work.

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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