3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Marvin Gaye, stocks, & Roanoke

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 Marvin Gaye’s NFL tryout changed his career (8/21/15, ESPN.com): I cannot believe I had never heard this story.

Marvin Gaye, Motown legend and one of the great soul singers of all time, once tried out for the NFL? For the Detroit Lions?


Really. Apparently Gaye’s dalliance with pro football is a well known story of that era, but credit ESPN.com writer Justin Tinsley for re-telling it in a thorough, powerful way. It follows the artist through the torturous moments of his singing career that led him to a different avenue … albeit for a brief, one-tryout-long amount of time.

Like any great piece of this nature, Tinsley not only lands the necessary interviews but writes with both interest and compassion. He serves as a great conduit for this remarkable tale.

Midstate stock market advisor urges calm in wake of massive Dow sell-off (8/25/15, WHTM-TV): This headline is boring, long, and bland … and gives no indication of the inventive storytelling to follow.

Yes, this piece — and I am specifically referring to the video, not the accompanying article — talks about the stock market, includes an interview with a wealth advisor, and deals with generally mundane material. But reporter Chris Davis and photographer Anthony Durso elevate it into a compelling 90-second package by getting creative. Davis heads outside with a stack of chalk and turns the WHTM-TV parking lot into his personal Tele-Strator.

I watch a lot of stories where journalists take aesthetic risks in telling stories, and I often bristle a bit because of the creative license involved. I typically prefer a more straightforward approach. But I feel the risks pay off when they make a story more digestible for the viewer. Davis and Durso present a piece that places the helter-skelter stock market in understandable terms.

Targets (8/27/15, Live Apartment Fire): I have not written anything yet about the tragedy in Roanoke, where two journalists were killed during a live shot.

I, frankly, have felt so many conflicting emotions that I have felt hesitant about what I could possibly say.

But I became uncomfortable as I watched many of my colleagues nationwide write about it, because so many of us seemed to be turning a singular act of violence into an attack on journalism itself. For sure, the incident hit all of us far too personally; I do live shots all the time and can easily picture myself in such a tragic scenario.

But what happened in Roanoke was not *about* me.

It was not about us as journalists.

It was about a far greater societal concern.

Of all the words written, my 11Alive co-worker Doug Richards best articulated my own emotions this week, because he turned his gaze outward. His whole post is excellent (although I do think his concerns about MMJs are misplaced, considering traditional photographers operate with the same inherent risks), but this passage stands out the most:

It is about the senseless violence that befell them.  It is not, emphatically, about me and the other folks who toil in my business who are, perhaps, allowing themselves to wonder if they might be next.  Because the answer is yes, they might be.  I might be.

But so might you.  So might all of our families and friends and other strangers whose acquaintances we make only after we read about something horrible befalling them.

Out in the world — where TV news folk are frequently welcomed but often scorned — we are merely human beings asking uncomfortable questions and bearing the logos of news operations.  Madmen lusting for blood have target-rich environments wherever they go.  We are merely one of them.

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

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