3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Qatar, Iran, & the last day of school

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.

I returned from vacation Saturday to some great works of journalism.

I was notified of two stories that placed the spotlight on the cultures of foreign countries — stories of international matters that retained a timeless, universal quality.

And I watched an enjoyable piece about the last day of school.

Without further ado, here are this week’s 3 Great Stories:

Qatar’s World Cup (6/1/14, ESPN): This story is absolutely brutal.

In 17 minutes, it will anger you, frustrate you, and do everything short of flatten your heart.

And it is a masterpiece.

Jeremy Schaap and the ESPN team provide a startling look at the working conditions in Qatar, the country that will host the 2022 World Cup. Qatari leaders pledged to put billions upon billions behind it, all while treating their laborers — according to the interview subjects in this piece — like modern slaves.

Credit ESPN for using its expansive resources to do all the necessary legwork for this story — traveling not just to Qatar but Nepal, sending Schaap and a camera crew to Qatari labor camps and risking their arrests in the process, and allowing 17 on-air minutes for the storytellers to do their jobs.

And they do those jobs remarkably well. This is easily the finest piece of television I have seen so far in 2014.

Being gay in Iran (5/28/14, The Stranger): Speaking of beautiful storytelling, it comes in this story from an anonymous individual who tells of a profound personal experience.

That experience? Coming out — and also being outed — as gay, while living in Iran, a country where doing so, as says the subheadline, “can get you killed.”

Again, the content itself is already powerful. But the writer, going by the name Farhad Dolatizadeh, does a magnificent job of doing justice to his own story.

He describes his situation through a series of vignettes, taking place at different ages from his late teens through early adulthood. The vignettes provide the appropriate context for the stresses and dangers of proclaiming one’s homosexuality in Iran. They also enable the writer to provide personal details and emotions that make his story relatable, powerful, and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Friday is last day of school for majority of MNPS (6/6/14, WTVF-TV): Personalities also pave the way in this story.

WTVF-TV photojournalist Mike Rose tackles far lighter matters than the above stories as he produces this NAT-PKG about the last day of school. But he executes the seemingly obvious premise — showing the sights and sounds of the school year’s final day — by showcasing a variety of delightful personalities.

It’s a quick story and deceptively simple, but it would not have been as strong without Rose’s keen eye for characters.

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

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