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.
Ray Tensing: passenger from another stop says UC officer shouldn’t have questioned him (8/4/15, WCPO-TV): Our jobs as journalists often involve editing an overwhelming amount of interviews, documents, and video into one cohesive, compact story.
But sometimes, the best move is to let the video run.
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is currently charged with shooting and killing a 43-year-old man named Sam Dubose, whom Tensing had pulled over for a traffic stop. In this story, a passenger from a separate stop comes forward with an unedited cell phone video in which, he says, Tensing mistreats him.
The resulting story makes for fine TV news, but the unedited video truly provides an education and unique look at how a traffic stop can play out. Kudos to WCPO-TV for posting that as well.
The new science of sentencing (8/4/15, The Marshall Project): One of the most fascinating subjects I have covered recently is criminal justice reform.
It seems to be one of the few issues both political parties can support: finding ways to shrink the jail population and reduce recidivism once ex-offenders return to society.
This story — a dual effort from The Marshall Project and FiveThirtyEight — does a dazzling job of spotlighting one of the issue’s more advanced and controversial innovations. As written by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ben Casselman, and Dana Goldstein, “Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming one of the first states in the country to base criminal sentences not only on what crimes people have been convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes.”
So many ethical questions come into play in this story, and its writers spell each one out with depth and nuance. This is a long read but an informative, excellent read.
Stopped train cuts off access to, from neighborhood for hours (7/26/15, WTVF-TV): This is, by contrast, a shorter story — but an extremely effective one in the confines of local news.
Reporter Jason Lamb and photographer Catherine Steward cover a neighborhood where stopped trains — often for 2-4 hours — regularly block residents from getting out. On the surface, this story lacks much visual flair: how do you turn non-moving trains, cars, and neighbors into a compelling story? But in this case, the lack of movement is the story, and Steward frames her interviews and edits her shots in ways that keep the viewer engaged. Lamb similarly weaves a creative narrative out of what could have been a cookie-cutter piece.
Stories like this remind those of us in TV news how one can turn every assignment into a vehicle to connect.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.