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.
Some weeks, I have a hard time finding three great stories to profile in this segment.
Not this week.
Perhaps I just found myself reading a lot more, but I continually found absorbing work on the print side. Beyond that, I also found occasions where traditional media enhanced their content for an online audience.
In a week stacked with memorable content, here were the three pieces that stood out to me:
After Bloomberg (8/20/13, The New Yorker): He is routinely mocked for being bland and boring, but New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg is sneakily candid. He regularly weighs in on national topics and critiques the President, among other leaders, and yet he does not get the notoriety for outspokenness that a Chris Christie might receive.
In his final year of office, one would expect, his candidness will lead to numerous in-depth retrospectives — hopefully as memorable as this one.
Ken Auletta of the New Yorker produces this 8,000-word gem about Bloomberg, and it is special because it blends the mayor’s own words with the appropriate context and commentary. Auletta writes with an obvious point of view, but he generally uses it to color Bloomberg’s words, not overpower them. This paragraph is a perfect example:
I asked Bloomberg if he could imagine joining the President’s Cabinet. In theory, he said, “it would be fascinating to be Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, jobs like that. Secretary of the Treasury, you want someone who’s a real economist”—and someone “who is maybe less opinionated.” Bloomberg thinks of himself as a team player, as long as it’s his team.
The God of ‘SNL’ Will See You Now (8/22/13, New York Times): For any fan of Saturday Night Live, this is a slam-dunk story.
Dave Itzkoff compiles interviews with 22 SNL cast members — and one who almost became one — regarding the often brutal process of auditioning for the show. Among those weighing in: Dana Carvey, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and even Chevy Chase!
I especially appreciated this piece because of its overtures to new media. Along with the online article, the web page on NYTimes.com includes extended interviews and a video piece with Fred Armisen. It also does something particularly slick: it highlights certain passages with a Twitter logo, and when you click on them, it enables you to share that specific quote on Twitter as opposed to sharing the general article.
As newspapers and magazines experiment with how to reach an online audience, I found the Times‘ approach here to be pretty novel. I would be curious to see whether it is actually effective.
Human capital: the formula that makes Finland’s schools so good (8/17/13, Le Temps/Worldcrunch): I understand that, after reading about the mayor of New York and an American TV institution, an article on schools in Finland may seem like a letdown.
But give it a look. I found it quite interesting — and another example of how to leverage the Internet to reach a global audience.
Worldcrunch is a fascinating web site. It translates the work of foreign media to reach an English-speaking audience. By its own words, “The most relevant foreign-language stories are produced in English by Worldcrunch staff and contributors around the globe, deployed to react quickly to breaking events and find the best content in the international media.”
In this case, the folks at Worldcrunch translate an article from Le Temps — a Swiss-French language newspaper whose own web site will not allow this article to be seen — regarding the success of Finnish schools. Author Celine Zund focuses on how, in Finland, teaching is a popular and competitive profession, and students are encouraged to learn with little pressure.
It is a fascinating read that offers a look into a different culture — which, one would think, is exactly what the leaders at Worldcrunch are trying to offer.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.