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 voting, laughter yoga, & the Cubs

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.

My first vote as an American (11/4/16, KUSA-TV): In a year that has been marked by election fatigue, we could all use a good reminder of the idealistic value of voting.

This piece provides that reminder in a powerful way.

Anastasiya Bolton is a reporter for KUSA-TV in Denver and a Russian native who voted in America for the first time in 2008 as a naturalized citizen. In this first-person opinion piece, Bolton speaks to viewers about why she treats the right to vote as a privilege. She speaks with passion and chokes up repeatedly during the two-minute monologue. Even if she perhaps tips her hand as to who she selected in the voting booth in ’08, she does so with the larger purpose of conveying the importance of the opportunity.

I admire Bolton for stepping out of her comfort zone and offering such an appeal. She presents straightforward honesty and emotion in a political season often criticized for lacking either.

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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.)

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Bill Kennedy, ethics, & hip-hop

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 official coming-out party (10/12/16, ESPN): Rarely have I seen a story whose tone is set immediately by its opening photo.

But upon clicking on the above link, you will be confronted with not words but a full-screen snapshot of a recent Pride Parade — with one figure on a float towering above the crowd, in both height and happiness.

He is Bill Kennedy, an NBA referee who came out last winter after a player described him with a homophobic slur.

As you scroll down, you will find 7,000+ words from versatile ESPN scribe Kevin Arnovitz, who provides some of the site’s best analysis and, in this case, a compelling portrait. He fills his profile of Kennedy with revealing anecdotes and morsels. He describes Kennedy’s complicated existence as a gay man in a high-profile job, constantly monitoring who among his colleagues and connections knew of his sexual orientation.

Arnovitz deserves credit for a masterful story. But it starts with that first photo, taken by David Dow, which displays Kennedy’s newfound comfort and happiness better than any word.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring marathoners, bourbon guitars, & bus drivers

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.

#whyirun: The stories of five runners of the Twin Cities Marathon (10/6/16, KARE-TV): My blog has been a little sparse lately, due to a vacation and my observance of the Jewish High Holidays. But even though I won’t be posting a full entry this week (Wednesday, my normal posting day, is Yom Kippur), I wanted to shout out three stories from last week that made me smile.

The first comes from a man I once interviewed for my podcast and who has since been featured regularly in this space: Ben Garvin. The photojournalist/videographer has become a never-ending source of creative storytelling at Minneapolis/St. Paul’s KARE-TV.

Here he presents a five-in-one profile of runners in the Twin Cities Marathon, but he does it with a visual style that is unparalleled. He uses dramatic photographs and slow-motion videos, and he never speaks; he simply uses the audio of interview clips from the runners themselves, creating an arresting and eye-catching piece.

I am a huge fan of what Garvin brings to the table, and I love the creativity and passion he injects into this field.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring drugmakers, safe spaces, & Morse code

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.

Politics of pain: drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis (9/18/16, Center for Public Integrity): The authors of this story refuse to bury the lead.

In a thorough and brutal report on various states’ efforts surrounding the current opioid crisis, reporters Liz Essley Whyte, Matthew Perrone, Geoff Mulvihill, and Ben Wieder lay it all out in the first paragraph:

“The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.”

They spend the rest of the article backing up that powerful premise.

Like any great investigative piece, the reporters here present both their methods and findings with enormous detail. They represent a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press, and they make a powerful storytelling team.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Red Rocks, yo-yos, & “the lady uniform”

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.

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.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring advice, Roger Ailes, & a big ear

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.

A farewell guide to political journalism (9/2/16, The Atlantic): When several people I respect Tweet their love for a piece of journalism, I pay attention.

That’s why I clicked on this link, unaware of its subject matter or even its author.

But my expectations were exceeded.

The title here connotes a hot take or think piece mourning the death of political journalism. In reality, it is the opposite; retiring writer Ron Franklin offers the lessons he learned in three decades as a political journalist — lessons that will, one would hope, inspire his successors to keep pushing.

His most empowering takeaway? This paraphrased passage:

“Until that moment, I assumed the people we covered in politics valued pushover journalists. … That might be true on the small stories, but not for the stuff that matters. … I left the meeting knowing that if I ever returned to journalism, I didn’t want to be taken for granted liked the first reporter. I wanted to inspire in my sources … respect and fear.”

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring New York(er), New York (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.

Leslie Jones and Twitter’s troll economics (7/23/16, New Yorker): This article is the latest in a weekly James Surowiecki column called “The Week in Business”.

That title sounds beyond boring.

Surowiecki’s work is anything but.

He covers three topics in this column, the title one dealing with how Twitter polices its members. It’s a multi-layered discussion, especially for those of us who use Twitter on a regular basis. The crux of his column? This paragraph:

The fight underscored the peculiar nature of Twitter as a quasi-public space, and the challenges that this presents to the company as it tries to grow its stagnant user base. Twitter isn’t, after all, a coffee shop, and much of its appeal stems from its free-for-all nature. Tough speech codes run the risk of alienating users who relish the possibilities presented by the service’s relative lack of oversight. At the same time, many, perhaps even most, Twitter users have grown alienated by the disproportionate toxicity that a minority of users can spread, and in particular by the kind of pack harassment that is often directed at “controversial” figures, many of whom are visible minorities or women. (That’s largely why the site also produces a steady flow of articles about, or by, people who have quit Twitter.)

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring KARE-TV’s “Breaking the News”

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.

One girl’s card to “Mr. Phil” (7/11/16, KARE-TV): I live in Atlanta, Ga. and have, in my life, spent maybe a week in the Twin Cities.

But I have found myself drawn to a 30-minute local newscast coming straight from Minnesota’s strongest station.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul is regarded by many as possessing one of the most talented groups of storytellers in country, both in front of and behind the camera. Earlier this year, the station debuted a new show called “Breaking The News”, which offers an alternative way of looking at the major news in the area — and, sometimes, around the country.

The show delivers, I find, consistently thoughtful takes and treatments. Take the story above, about a third-grader who wrote a card to the “lunch man” at her school named “Mr. Phil”. That man is Philando Castile, whose death has sparked protests nationwide. In this piece, the protests get pushed aside to allow for one girl’s voice, which, in its unintentional innocence, reminds of the humanity in everyone. “Breaking the News” host Jana Shortal conducts a tender interview with the girl, 8-year-old Leila Ramgren, and photographer (and one-time Telling the Story podcast guest) Ben Garvin captures the interview with a set of cameras that enable the emotions to shine.

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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.

Now 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.

A friend recommended it to me, and I pressed play on this episode, that 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 a riveting read.) I recommend listening to this episode uninterrupted, because once it begins, you will quickly be absorbed into the tremendous storytelling and horrifying statistics and stories regarding the prevalence of private prisons in our country today.

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