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.
How do you tell the stories that tell themselves?
These days, it seems, you don’t.
When great moments happen, people share the moments themselves in ways they previously could not. So when Mariano Rivera cries after his final pitch at Yankee Stadium, people can now share the clip from the TV broadcast with each other online. (That’s what I did, frankly …) Same goes for when Louis C.K. drops another instant-classic comedy bit on a late-night talk show.
But moments demand stories, and stories demand storytellers.
So, what is the solution? Below, I offer three examples of how to work with a moment to tell a unique story:
Mariano Rivera says goodbye in an emotional final appearance at Yankee Stadium (9/26/13, New York Daily News): In the case of Mr. Rivera, a writer cannot possibly describe or capture the moment as well as the moment itself.
But the writer can provide context.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News does that here. Since we already know the who, what, when, and where of this moment, Feinsand does the natural thing and finds the two missing links: how and why. He takes you through the thought process of manager Joe Girardi, who orchestrated the moving moment of having longtime Yankees Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte remove Rivera from the game. He recounts the post-game comments of all three players involved, who provide a sincerity and openness rarely seen in pro athletes.
Many columns after the game focused on what Rivera could have been thinking during that moment, without actually figuring out if they were right. Feinsand goes to the source, and thus he provides an example of where straight reporting is valuable and complimentary to the action itself.
The forever empty of Louis C.K. (9/24/13, Big Think): Sometimes, of course, the columnist can take a story to a new level — again, by not replicating the moment, but building on it.
Derek Beres of Big Think uses Louis C.K.’s recent bit about cell phones to build on C.K.’s main point: our inability to just sit, do nothing, and be in touch with ourselves. Beres offers some interesting history lessons and jaw-dropping stats, like a study that “revealed that an incredible 20% of young adults have checked their phones while having sex”.
Beyond that, Beres provides thoughtful analysis and a jumping-off point for discussion. I have many friends who, when a viral story occurs, often share “put-it-into-context” stories on social media. They elevate the discourse and provide alternative viewpoints, and Beres does a great job of it here.
The worst part of the Kanye-Kimmel saga? It’s hardly surprising (9/26/13, Huffington Post): Here is another example of an attempt of providing context — this time in a contrary manner.
Now, let me be clear: I am not defending any part of the histrionics of the “Kanye-Kimmel saga”, as it is referred to in this article’s headline. For that matter, I do not agree with much of what is said in this article.
But I do appreciate its spirit.
I appreciate that HuffPo entertainment editor Kia Makarechi tries to provide his readers with an alternate viewpoint — a viewpoint, frankly, that was shared by many frustrated voices in the past few days. One can try to avoid topics like these, and I often do, but if you are going to dive into them, you should at least try to understand them. Reporters — and columnists too, in my mind — are still obligated to seek both sides of a story; they can parse through those sides and determine their legitimacy to some extent, but they have to at least acknowledge that both sides exist. Here, Makarechi speaks up for Kanye West’s side, and he actually brings some maturity to a largely immaturely handled situation.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.