3 Great Stories

Every week I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments.

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the Marshall Project

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 death row basketball league (3/16/17, The Marshall Project): This week, in this segment, each piece comes from the same source.

I have gradually become a big fan of The Marshall Project, which bills itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.” Its editors and writers consistently contribute insightful, revelatory journalism, often partnering with other news agencies. That’s what they do here, presenting a first-hand account of life at a death row prison through a collaboration with Vice.

Writer Lyle May is incarcerated at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. He discusses the prison’s basketball league, weaving details of games with reminders of life on death row. The reader does not learn what crimes May committed … until the very end, when this humanizing portrait receives a hammering reminder of what leads to such a sentence.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the Smokies, immigration, & Nina Simone

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.

Fire on the Mountain (2/24/17, WTVF-TV): If I wanted, I could probably devote my whole column to this one documentary.

“Fire on the Mountain” is a 30-minute special from the team at NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, widely regarded as one of the best storytelling stations in the country. It takes a look back at the wildfires that raged through the Smoky Mountains in late 2016.

The special consists of a series of moving, well-written, beautifully shot stories, largely from standout reporter Chris Conte. But I want to specifically highlight the final piece. Former podcast guest Jason Lamb reports about how the area has moved forward, and his sublime script is matched only by the photography of Mike Rose, Angie Dones, and (another former podcast guest) Catherine Steward.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring immigration, caverns, & sign language

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.

Trump’s first roundup (2/20/17, The Marshall Project): In a fractious and volatile media environment, the strongest stories are sometimes the ones that cut through the noise and present simple facts.

This piece from the Marshall Project accomplishes that task with some deep research and poignant storytelling.

Writer Julia Preston examines the first round of ICE raids on undocumented immigrants since the election of Donald Trump as president. With little information from the federal government, Preston seeks out immigration attorneys and other sources to compile data.

In doing so, she develops a clearer picture of how the federal strategy has continued that of President Barack Obama … and how it has changed. One leaves Preston’s piece far more informed.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring bonds between spouses, families, & new friends

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.

Skeptical cop befriends homeless veteran (2/15/17, KARE-TV): In his first appearance in this segment this year — but definitely not his first appearance overall — Boyd Huppert gives a master class in how to imbue a piece with emotion and connection.

The headline above makes clear the substance of his story: it deals with a homeless veteran who finds a source of grace and generosity in a local police officer. But Huppert writes — and photographer Rob Collett edits — with a deft touch, revealing critical details in a way that both surprises and enriches.

Those of us who teach storytelling often talk about the importance of “reveals” and “moments”, but Huppert excels at earning those moments. When they appear in this story (I won’t spoil them here), they feel more meaningful because of the rich visuals and character development that have led to them.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Atlanta icons & an Alabama firefighter

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.

#GoodbyeBrenda: 11Alive bids farewell to an Atlanta icon (2/8/17, WXIA-TV): This past week, my newsroom in Atlanta lost a legend.

Longtime anchor Brenda Wood officially retired from local TV news, signing off Wednesday for the final time. I have used this space quite a bit in recent weeks to commemorate Wood and her work in Atlanta.

But I can think of no person better to honor such an icon than our newsroom’s other storytelling standout.

Jon Shirek is a phenomenal writer and a generous soul; I have interviewed him both on my Telling the Story podcast and for my book, The Solo Video Journalist. In this story, he does his homework and encapsulates the career of our colleague with sensitivity and admiration.

It’s a fitting tribute. After all, Wood never lacked command as an anchor; Shirek never lacks it as a writer.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring homelessness, Solange, and facts

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.

Under the Bridge: a virtual reality visit with homeless in Seattle (1/19/17, KING-TV): The first two stories I’m featuring this week are significant for breaking new ground in messy circumstances.

Let’s start with “Under the Bridge”, a 360-degree mini-doc produced by KING-TV’s Toby Rigby and Matt Mrozinski (himself a recent Telling the Story podcast guest). They work with photographer/activist Tim Durkan to explore a homeless camp in Seattle, and they devote five minutes to providing immersive looks and raw moments.

One cannot take on a new frontier without growing pains, and this production definitely presents a few from a storytelling standpoint. Watching it on my phone in a public place, I struggled at times to figure out where I was supposed to be looking. I often needed to take a few seconds during moments of dialogue to actually spot who was speaking.

But this is foremost an inspiring effort. Rigby and Mrozinski use the 360-degree space in innovative ways, from the opening titles to a sea of surrounding photographs towards the end. I applaud their dedication and perseverance here, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Russia, J-school, & the World Darts Championship

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.

Putin led a complex cyberattack scheme to aid Trump, report finds (1/6/17, New York Times): I often feel like we’re losing our appreciation for thorough, straightforward reporting that provides both the news of the day and the appropriate context.

Here is an example of how that can look.

Michael Shear and David Sanger put forth this front-page piece for the New York Times, giving the latest findings from US intelligence officials regarding Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 Presidential election. They provide a link to the public report, which itself is a worthy read. But they show, through their work, many of the hallmarks of a strong reporting foundation. They also present their findings in a digestible way.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring seafarers, Greenland, & Super Mario

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.

Seattle mission serves foreign ship crews who cannot come ashore (12/28/16, KING-TV): As we turn the calendar to 2017, here is a touching, deceptively straightforward piece worth watching from 2016.

Ted Land with Seattle’s KING-TV is an especially talented solo video journalist, as well as a one-time podcast guest of mine and one of the interview subjects of my new how-to book for MMJs, The Solo Video Journalist. He is also a former National Edward R. Murrow winner for writing, and in this story he displays why.

Land tackles a seemingly simple subject — a Christian group that puts together care packages for foreign seafarers who dock in Seattle — but puts immense care into every word and shot. One needn’t work too hard to spot picturesque shots along the Pacific Ocean, but Land goes further and finds some of the most beautifully framed clips of video I’ve seen all year (2016, not this year).

That work ethic shows up throughout the piece, and it culminates in a winner of a story from a tremendous storyteller.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, audio/video edition

Every week, I will 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 tradition continues.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

I often find I enjoy the stories the second time almost as much as the first.

I posted my favorite written of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Celebrating 75 years of Red Rocks Amphitheater (9/5/16, KDVR-TV): Maybe it’s too easy.

Maybe it’s too easy to attempt a 20-minute special when the subject is such a ready-made stunner.

And maybe it’s too easy to do so with not one or two photographers, but more than a half-dozen.

But there’s nothing easy about the craft and creativity that went into this exquisite show from KDVR-TV, honoring the captivating Red Rocks Amphitheater on its 75th birthday.

Everyone involved deserves credit for such a compelling tribute to a fitting subject, but I want to specifically shout out the photographers. Yes, they had the built-in benefit of covering one of the most visually beautiful sites in the world, but they didn’t waste the chance, continually finding unique stories to tell and presenting characters as memorable as the amphitheater itself. Every piece is a winner, but I particularly enjoyed the segment with Blues Traveler, shot by Bryant Vander Weerd, Chris Mosher, and Isaias Medina.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring silver linings at difficult times

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.

‘Awesome’ cat survives fires in Wears Valley (11/30/16, WBIR-TV): The three stories I’m showing this week share a common thread.

They all deal with uplifting moments during trying situations.

No story this week, for example, captured the attention of the Southeast like the massive wildfires in Tennessee. So many reporters have done valiant work reporting on the harder elements of the situation, but others have produced similarly poignant pieces about the glimmers of positivity and hope amidst the tragedy.

WBIR-TV solo video journalist Becca Habegger does so here. She finds a family who lost its home and narrowly escaped as it caught fire. The parents and four children got out, as did their two dogs. For a while, though, they could not find their two cats. Habegger shows what happened when they did, and it’s a great moment.

(more…)

BECOME A STRONGER STORYTELLER!

Enter your email and keep up to date ...