3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the rise of journalism podcasts

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.

The man inside: four months as a prison guard (6/25/16, Reveal): A few weeks ago, I posted an entry on this blog that recommended three podcasts from which any journalist would benefit.

I already feel like I left that list incomplete.

The recent podcast boom has brought an extraordinary amount of new audio series from reputable journalistic sources, including (and perhaps particularly) the Reveal podcast from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

After a friend recommended it to me, I pressed play on this episode, which profiles Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer as he goes undercover for four months as a private prison guard. (Bauer’s written piece for Mother Jones is also a riveting read.) I recommend listening to the episode uninterrupted, because once it begins, you will quickly be absorbed into the tremendous storytelling and horrifying statistics about the prevalence of private prisons in our country today.

Why Liberal New York City’s Schools Are Among the Most Segregated (6/27/16, ProPublica Podcast): Podcasts such as Reveal and this one from ProPublica serve the exceptional purpose of providing a second life for powerful works of journalism.

Such was the case in the above example, and it is the case here, where host Heather Vogell interviews a reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones, about her provocative piece for the New York Times magazine about the inherent segregation in the New York City school system.

I learned early as a reporter that I rarely will be able to fit everything I want to include in a story. Such goals are prevented by the constraints of space, time, and deadlines. So I appreciate behind-the-scenes looks like these, where reporters like Hannah-Jones can provide even more context and exposure to matters they consider important.

Cars fly on the Fourth of July (7/5/16, Alaska Dispatch News): In my network of visual journalists, this story has had everybody buzzing.

Legendary photographer Scott Jensen, working at the Alaska Dispatch News, goes the extra mile and then some in this piece about a small town in Alaska that has a unique tradition on Independence Day: sending several cars over a cliff.

Jensen uses a cadre of cameras, thanks to advance planning that can be seen in this making-of video, and captures this ridiculous event from seemingly every angle — despite working by himself. I cannot say enough about the mastery involved here. The degree of difficulty in a story like this is skyscraper-level high, but Jensen pulls it off because of superior understanding of just about every aspect of storytelling, from maneuvering his gear to capturing moments with precision and joy.

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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