5 GREAT STORIES: The all-Boyd Huppert 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.

It’s time to pay tribute to a legend.

This past Saturday, KARE-TV feature reporter Boyd Huppert received the coveted Silver Circle award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The honor often reflects longevity — a lifetime achievement award, if you will.

But few journalists have reached Huppert’s level of achievements.

In fact, that same night, Huppert won his 100th regional Emmy award — one of 11 he received for 2016.

In addition to his Emmys, Huppert has won 14 national Edward R. Murrow awards and three Sigma Delta Chi awards; he has received, on seven occasions, the NPPA’s Photojournalism Award for Reporting. Beyond that, Huppert has inspired thousands of journalists through both his teaching and his example, and he has touched millions with his heart-warming stories.

A far less prestigious achievement? He is by far the most mentioned reporter on this blog. In nearly four years, I have tagged Huppert in 23 posts — the majority of which have come as shout-outs for his work in this “3 Great Stories” segment.

(Huppert also graced my podcast for our 40th episode; it’s a terrific listen.)

To that end, I have chosen to use this week’s “3 Great Stories” as an all-time Greatest Hits list of my favorite Huppert games. (“All-time”, in this case, refers to the last four years in which I have written this blog.) I could not narrow the list to three, so here are five great Boyd Huppert stories, along with what I wrote about them at the time, with minor edits for clarity:

Dying man finds miracle in abandoned church (11/18/12, KARE-TV): I can’t think of one thing that stands out to me about this story.

Simply put, everything stands out.

Few in my profession would argue that Huppert and photographer Jonathan Malat are as good as it gets in terms of long-form, human-interest storytelling. I regularly find myself blown away by their work, and I could not stop smiling over this one. This is beginning-to-end perfect: a touching story that takes its time but does not waste a moment.

It is the kind of story that makes me want to be a better journalist.

I could probably list five lessons I learned from this story alone, but above all I was reminded of the importance of continually finding stories — and storytellers — who inspire you. I have no doubt I will improve because, when I watch pieces like this, I can see the possible results of said improvement.

(NOTE: The original link from KARE-TV no longer works, so I have posted the YouTube video from a different station that ran the story. Also, Huppert followed up this year with the story’s main subject, now facing a new fight.)

WWII vet forms unlikely friendship with preschooler (7/6/14, KARE-TV): The dynamic duo of Huppert and Malat deliver another breathtaking piece, this one about the special friendship between an 89-year-old named Erling and a three-year-old named Emmett.

They are neighbors, and they adore each other.

If you work in local TV news, you can absolutely imagine a story with this premise getting shot down in a pitch meeting. Thank goodness Huppert and Malat receive the latitude to produce pieces like this. I don’t want to spoil its many beautiful moments; I will just say that these two storytellers perfectly capture an unlikely relationship, with writing and photographic techniques that should be taught to young journalists everywhere.

(NOTE: Huppert this weekend announced some very sad news: Erling, at age 91, passed away Saturday. His friendship with Emmett touched innumerable people, most of all Emmett himself.)

Ferguson: Why can’t we talk? (11/14/14, KSDK-TV): In terms of context, struggle, and Ferguson, I don’t think I saw a better story in all of 2014 than this one, which covers all three.

This comes from Huppert and photographer Jeff Christian, who put together this beautiful tapestry of individual stories and perspectives in order to tackle the overarching question of racial tension in St. Louis.

Everything about this story is exquisite, from Huppert’s usual sensitive writing to Christian’s pristine editing; not a single shot, sound bite, or line of script is wasted here. The duo give this piece the treatment it deserves, and they produce a poignant story as a result.

Young storytellers, or any storyteller: watch this story, and watch it again.

Sunken GoPro camera surfaces a year later with a story (9/22/15, KARE-TV): This piece combines literal and emotional journeys into one absolute beauty of a feature.

The literal journey involves a GoPro camera, which slipped off the head of its owner and down to the bottom of Minnesota’s Temperance River. The camera was lost forever … or would have been if not for a snorkeler who found it a year later.

The emotional journey takes place with the audience, as we follow the building and multi-layered narrative weaved by Huppert. Combined with some creative and picturesque photography from Rob Collett, Huppert’s words and story structure provide captivation at nearly every turn.

I do not want to reveal too much about what happens in this story. I would much prefer you to watch … and let Huppert do the revealing.

One-legged kicking coach inspires high school team (10/28/15, KARE-TV): Huppert does it again, this time thanks largely to the photography and editing of Kevin Sullivan. The visuals here are just stunning, from the blink-and-you-miss-them angles of football practice to the picturesque landscapes of Friday night football. They provide, for this story, a gorgeous aesthetic.

And Huppert? He, as always, brings the piece’s soul.

He unfolds the story of a man named Larry, with one arm and one leg, who coaches kicking for a local high school football team. Huppert delivers the story with touching turns of phrase and that sing-song, lullaby-like cadence that immediately hooks a viewer.

This is beautiful work by all involved.

UPDATE: Here’s five MORE great stories by Huppert, suggested by many of his colleagues.

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

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