3 GREAT STORIES: Starring May sweeps, 2016 edition

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.

Miracle? Blind woman sees again after unrelated surgery (5/11/16, WBBH-TV): It’s that time of year again.

Or, should I say, it’s one of several “that times” of year again.

Sweeps has arrived. Local TV stations across the country have now entered the crucial May ratings period, and they stack their shows with long-form stories that get regularly promoted.

Thankfully for the viewer, those stories are often very powerful.

Consider this one from reporter Chad Oliver and photographer Scott Reilly at NBC2 in Southwest Florida. They tell a tale I would not have believed if not for the medical professional in the story who confirms it: a elderly woman, who had lost her sight, regained it seemingly accidentally through surgery on her neck.

The woman is a grandmother and firecracker named Mary Ann whose personality carries the whole story. Oliver smartly lets her do so, writing in a way that elevates her character while continually adding layers of story and surprise. It’s smile-worthy, for sure.

Government mistakenly declares Minnesota man dead (5/10/16, KARE-TV): This story, from talented KARE-TV investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe, is similarly hard to believe.

But it’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s serious and concerning.

Lagoe looks into the case of a Minnesota man named Steven Monno, one of 12,000 people each year who are wrongly declared dead by the Social Security Administration. Monno and his sister attempt unsuccessfully to beat the bureaucracy, so they enlist Lagoe and the investigative team to help straighten out the situation.

Lagoe indeed straightens it out, but he also unfolds a widespread issue and envelops this personal story in a national context. One can hear a certain amount of disbelief in his voice, as if he spent half the time saying to himself, “Really? This happens?”

Insane asylums: capturing America’s dark past (5/11/16, WUSA-TV): If the first story was a heart-warmer, and the second story was a investigation, this third and final piece is something else.

It’s a feature yet serious; it’s haunting yet still; it’s hard news yet with a healthy amount of mystery.

Perhaps it cannot be categorized. But it is a fascinating story.

WUSA-TV journalist Scott Rensberger follows a photographer who spends his days documenting insane asylums — a once-frequent but now-forgotten part of our country. The “forgotten” element shows up with Rensberger visits an asylum to find it abandoned and rotting.

Again, I don’t know quite how to define this story; I simply know I was glued to it.

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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