Podcasts

Here are long-form interviews with storytellers from across the business, from print to TV to podcasting to everywhere else. SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST HERE!

PODCAST EPISODE #44: Jason Lamb, reporter, WTVF-TV

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If you want to get to know my guest on this podcast, you need to watch this video:

It features a young reporter, standing among legends as finalists for the NPPA’s 2016 Reporter of the Year award, awaiting the decision … and then finding out he won.

The reaction is priceless.

The reporter is Jason Lamb.

After about 20 seconds of straightforward shock, the 30-year-old from WTVF-TV in Nashville gives a heartfelt acceptance speech. He talks about the lessons he learned from the other journalists on that stage. He confesses he didn’t really prepare anything to say. And just when he claims to be done, he quickly calls everyone back so he can think the photographer, the ultra-talented (and former podcast guest) Catherine Steward, who shot every story on his award-winning entry.

Lamb is my guest on Episode #44 of the Telling The story podcast.

We certainly discuss his advice for young TV journalists on developing as a storyteller, but mostly we talk about his most recently high-profile assignment: covering Hurricane Matthew for dozens of local news affiliates as it came up the Florida coast. Lamb, Steward, and his team worked 17-hour days and executed loads of live shots; they came back exhausted but satisfied with their work.

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PODCAST EPISODE #43: Cheryl Preheim, morning anchor, KUSA-TV

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I may have said this a time or two in the past month:

The Olympics are an extraordinary assignment.

I have had the privilege of covering the event three times, most recently this August in Rio de Janeiro. I find the assignment tests me in a variety of ways, both professionally and personally, and provides both unique challenges and wonderful memories.

I have not been alone. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of journalists descend upon the Olympics every two years, and they are all tasked with providing a window for their readers and viewers that enables a greater connection to both the Games and their host city.

I saw few handle this as deftly as the team at KUSA-TV in Denver. The NBC affiliate (and TEGNA sister station) comes equipped with a team of journalists who consistently make the extra push to tell the best story for their audience.

One of those journalists, morning anchor Cheryl Preheim, is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I got to know Preheim at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and worked with her again in Rio. In both cases I marveled at her abilities as a storyteller and her disposition as a person. Through a grueling 25 days, she always seemed to find the energy and optimism while putting together great work for her viewers.

Listen to this podcast, and you’ll get a window into what makes Preheim such a strong storyteller — and what makes the Olympics such a daunting yet rewarding assignment.

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PODCAST EPISODE #42: Ellen Crooke, TEGNA; Scott Livingston, Sinclair

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If you work — or wish to work — in local television news, you will want to hear this hour of audio.

Last month John Kirtley and I hosted and directed the NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, at which a sold-out crowd heard from a bevy of the best storytellers nationwide. One of the highlights was a panel discussion featuring two people of tremendous influence at the nation’s largest broadcast media groups: Ellen Crooke, VP of News at TEGNA, and Scott Livingston, VP of News at Sinclair.

I have known Crooke for more than a decade; she has hired me twice, and I fully admit to being a tremendous admirer of her passion for storytelling and desire to change the landscape of TV news. I met Livingston for the first time at this workshop, but I am a huge fan of his photojournalistic mindset and the storytelling culture and teamwork that exists at many of his stations.

During this panel, both offered tremendous insights into:

  • the current TV news landscape and what’s being done to improve it
  • the ways in which both enterprise and in-the-mix journalism can be done better
  • the types of journalists who stand out to them, and the ways in which young journalists can make themselves valuable in a newsroom

Among the highlights:

  • Crooke on the state of local news: “There are times when we look at our local news product and say, 80% of it, I’m not interested. Twenty percent of it is extraordinary, but there is too much that is the assembly line and the factory, and we’re experimenting with ways to break that assembly line.”
  • Livingston on building a storytelling culture: “It is a privilege to tell stories that matter. It is our responsibility to tell a story that’s relevant. So we go back and ask, ‘What’s the ‘why’? What’s the ‘So what’? What are the questions we need to ask?'”
  • Crooke on what journalists can do to position themselves for the future: “Embrace ambiguity. We are going into a new territory in our industry, and it’s the people that forge into the ambiguity that are going to change our industry and move our industry forward. If we only do what we know and what we’re comfortable with, we will never change.”
  • Livingston on building trust and establishing transparency: “We want to be transparent. We want the viewer to be able to watch the piece, go to the web, and here’s the PDF; here’s the court document so you can see for yourself.”
  • Crooke on one thing every newsroom gets wrong: “I see us hiring people from outside our business because we want to be different … and then we suck them into our vacuum of sameness. We don’t let them change us. I just see it happening over and over again.”
  • Livingston on what keeps him up at night: “It’s our future in late news. In morning news, we’re doing great. But with late news, because of all the devices, everything thinks they know everything before. Also, I think we all need to be prepared for the post-network world. That’s why we are trying to touch people on other platforms: so we create such a sense of belonging with our brand that our network lead-in becomes irrelevant.”

I hope you enjoy this segment called “A Look at the Landscape”, and I urge you to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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PODCAST EPISODE #41: John Kirtley, assistant chief photojournalist, WLOS-TV

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Through the first 40 episodes of the Telling The Story podcast, I followed a self-made rule that I would avoid repeating guests. I wanted to showcase as many storytellers and journalists as I could, so I refused to interview the same person twice.

This week, I am breaking that rule.

But it’s for a good reason.

My guest for Episode #41 is John Kirtley, who by day works at Asheville’s WLOS-TV as the assistant chief photojournalist. When he last appeared on the podcast, we mostly discussed the craft of visual storytelling. But John, like me, has recently added a second professional title: co-director of the NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, June 10-11 in Atlanta. John first came to me with the idea last March; we tabled the discussion until this January, and once we officially decided to do it, we began a long road of meticulous planning and non-stop calls and messages.

Now the workshop is barely a week away, and I invited John back on the podcast to discuss how we hope people will benefit from it.

This is a great listen for anyone coming to the Southeast workshop, but it is important on a broader level for any journalist or storyteller who has thought about attending a workshop at all. John and I are big believers in the value of occasionally removing ourselves from the daily grind to focus on improving our skills. If you are not coming to Atlanta, you should think seriously about the other workshops and conferences that regularly dot the journalistic landscape.

Click here to learn more about the conference, and in the meantime, enjoy this podcast with the man who helped get it off the ground.

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PODCAST EPISODE #40: Boyd Huppert, reporter, KARE-TV

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At the end of this podcast, I joke, “I can retire the podcast now!”

Don’t worry … I don’t plan to retire it. But I probably could, now that I have interviewed one of the most revered and decorated storytellers ever.

My guest for Episode #40 is Boyd Huppert.

The feature reporter for KARE-TV in the Twin Cities is known nationwide for his absorbing and touching stories, which regularly find their way to NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. For many in local TV, Huppert is an idol — the man whose career and talents we all dream of having. I can’t think of a single storyteller who does it better.

In recent years, Huppert has also become known as a teacher. He works with stations worldwide, speaks at conferences, and last year even gave a TED Talk:

Huppert will also, I’m proud to announce, be the keynote speaker at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held in Atlanta June 10th and 11th. I am organizing and co-hosting the conference with photojournalist (and one-time podcast guest) John Kirtley of WLOS-TV in Asheville. We welcome anyone looking to improve as a storyteller and receive inspiration from some of the best in the country, particularly our keynote speaker.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference, Feel free to e-mail me with questions at the address below. In the meantime, enjoy this podcast with a legendary storyteller who speaks about his background, offers advice for getting the most out of workshops, and gives his insights and tips for young journalists.

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PODCAST EPISODE #39: John Le, reporter, WLOS-TV

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Before you listen to this podcast, you need to watch a video.

This video.

This is a snippet from an interview with Will Ferrell, where host Katie Couric plays a clip of the actor’s work in college as an aspiring sportscaster. At the 42-second mark, you see Ferrell pontificating about a beauty pageant, deadpanning about the contestants while a co-anchor nods graciously and holds Ferrell’s microphone.

That co-anchor is John Le, and he is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

We all know what became of Ferrell, but his sidekick in that clip has developed an illustrious career of his own. Le is regarded as one of the top feature reporters in the industry and has won five regional Edward R. Murrow awards along with a rising stack of regional Emmys. He is a finalist for this year’s NPPA national Best of Photojournalism award for Reporting.

He is also a hoot. Perhaps Ferrell’s comedic instincts rubbed off on him (or maybe it was the reverse?), but Le is an effervescent presence whose personality more than stands out during this podcast.

On another note, Le is one of the many tremendous speakers at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held June 10th and 11th in Atlanta. I am organizing and co-hosting the conference with photojournalist (and one-time podcast guest) John Kirtley, who works with Le at WLOS-TV in Asheville. We welcome anyone looking to improve as a storyteller and receive inspiration from some of the best in the country.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference, Feel free to e-mail me with questions at the address below. In the meantime, enjoy this entertaining — and, I hope, informative — half-hour with one of the best writers around.

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PODCAST EPISODE #38: Chris Vanderveen, reporter, KUSA-TV

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Sometimes we forget the cold hard potential of what we can accomplish in journalism.

Chris Vanderveen is a good reminder.

(As evidenced from his photo above with the Most Interesting Man in the World, he also knows how to keep good company.)

After more than a decade as an award-winning general assignment reporter for KUSA-TV in Denver, Vanderveen applied for a job within his station to join the investigative team. He got it, and he has been throwing journalistic haymakers ever since.

Specifically, Vanderveen has produced stories and led movements that have changed laws.

He brings a storyteller’s sensibility to the often tough-to-digest world of investigative journalism. I-Team stories tend to come across as an overload of numbers and data, except when in the hands of a reporter who can give viewers a reason to care.

Vanderveen is my guest on this episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

He is also one of the many tremendous speakers at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held June 10th and 11th in Atlanta. I am organizing and co-hosting the conference with photojournalist (and one-time podcast guest) John Kirtley of WLOS-TV in Asheville. We welcome anyone looking to improve as a storyteller and receive inspiration from some of the best in the country. Vanderveen has the hardware to back up his credentials, including recently being named a finalist for NPPA Reporter of the Year.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference, Feel free to e-mail me with questions at the address below. In the meantime, enjoy this look into the power of investigative journalism, with great tips on how to do it right.

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PODCAST EPISODE #37: Jed Gamber, WBFF-TV & Catherine Steward, WTVF-TV

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Awards season is underway in local TV news.

Over the next few months, some of the most prestigious associations in journalism will present lists of winners and honor some of the best reporters and photojournalists in the field.

Photojournalists Jed Gamber and Catherine Steward are off to a great start.

This past week, Gamber and Steward each received one of the highest honors in the craft: being named NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year. Gamber captured the crown for the East region for his work at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, while Steward topped the Central region after a stellar year with WTVF-TV in Nashville. The award they won prizes consistency and versatility and honors an entire year’s worth of powerful storytelling.

Watch their work, and you will quickly see why: these two photojournalists care about awards far less than they care about their audience.

Gamber and Steward are my guests of this episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

They discuss questions of technique, teamwork, and communication, but they speak with such obvious and heartfelt passion. They so clearly believe in the power of storytelling to reach an audience, and they bring that purpose into their work. Any storyteller can learn from what these two have to say.

They are also among the star-studded line-up of speakers at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held June 10th and 11th in Atlanta. I am organizing and co-hosting the conference with photojournalist (and one-time podcast guest) John Kirtley of WLOS-TV in Asheville. We welcome anyone looking to improve as a storyteller and receive inspiration from some of the best in the country — including the two guests on this episode.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference, Feel free to e-mail me with questions at the address below. In the meantime, enjoy the discussion of craft with two extremely talented — and newly honored — TV news photojournalists.

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PODCAST EPISODE #36: David McRaney, “You Are Not So Smart”

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Remember those commercials where a poor sap cannot stop raving about the delivery pizza he is eating, only to be scolded: “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno”?

That’s how I feel at the beginning of every episode of “You Are Not So Smart”.

The podcast delves into various concepts of psychology, but it almost always opens with a pop culture example that both illustrates and introduces each episode’s topic … not unlike what I just did with the DiGiorno example.

But after host David McRaney lures you in with clips from Mad Men or the Twilight Zone, he provides a beautiful hour or so of discussion and conversation that connects on a much more sophisticated level.

McRaney is my guest on Episode #36 of the Telling The Story podcast.

I reached out to McRaney because I was impressed with both his expertise as a storyteller and his versatility in the field. This is a guy who once owned a pet store (twice!), but he transitioned to journalism and carved out an utterly unique path. He has written for a handful of popular web sites, but he has become most prolific through “You Are Not So Smart”, which before it became a podcast started as a blog and continued as a book. From his home base of Hattiesburg, Miss., McRaney has built an empire that has opened the door to opportunities.

What makes his show such a success? McRaney credits, at least partly, his subject matter. “These are heady topics that appeal to the lowest common denominator,” he says, “in that everybody is interested in why we think the things we think.”

But McRaney did not reach 200,000 Facebook followers thanks to topic alone. He reached it through exposure, likability, and superb storytelling.

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PODCAST EPISODE #35: Jeff Hullinger, WXIA-TV, on witnessing an execution

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This is one of the more difficult interviews I have ever conducted.

But for journalists — and, truly, anyone — it is an important interview to hear.

For three years I have come to know my co-worker Jeff Hullinger as verbose, eloquent, wry, and sardonic. Starting a conversation with Hullinger means beginning a singular journey of quips, observations, and insights that can only come from someone of his experience and expressiveness. He has spent three decades as a broadcaster in Atlanta; he has won 19 regional Emmys, interviewed everyone from John Elway to Mikhail Gorbachev, and called the play-by-play on the radio for a Super Bowl.

Last week Hullinger did something he — and 99.9% of journalists — had never done: he witnessed an execution.

The state of Georgia had scheduled the death of Kelly Gissendaner, who had been convicted of orchestrating the murder of her husband, Doug. About a week before the execution, Hullinger learned he had been named of five area journalists who would serve as witnesses.

He did not back away from the assignment.

“I think, sitting in an anchor chair, I have a responsibility to represent this station publicly,” Hullinger told me, “and I take that very seriously. You have a responsibility to both yourself and your co-workers. I think word in action becomes significant.”

He added, “This is something that no one wants to do, from an intellectual standpoint. [But] it’s something I have to do.”

Hullinger joins me on this episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

I honestly would not have normally felt comfortable asking someone in his situation to speak about what he experienced. I felt compelled here by two factors. First, Hullinger had already done a beautiful job of recounting the evening, through Twitter and then on the air. He seemed willing, in that window, to speak about it, although he later told me he would not do so after this podcast. He did not want, I think, to feel bound to the experience for the rest of his career, constantly asked to re-tell his story.

“I can’t tell you how many requests I’ve had to come speak, and I’m not doing any of that,” he said. “My responsibility was one night … and I am done.”

Secondly, I believed in our rapport. Hullinger and I have talked about so many subjects over the years, and I trusted that he would entrust me with conducting an interview in a sensitive, professional way — the same way he had handled his assignment.

This interview — and his perspective within it — is extremely worth your time.

Hullinger discusses how he balanced his objectivity as a journalist with his emotions during a horrific act. He describes the otherworldly experience of entering a world few will ever view.

“We had been told by the state that this is a rather bloodless, painless, clinical, procedural thing, where there isn’t really a lot of emotion,” said Hullinger. “It was none of that. It was unbelievable … all of the razor wire, all of the check-ins, all of the freedom that has been denied. Even our ability to go to the restroom was not allowed. We had to ask men who would not make eye contact with us. It was a horrifying, terrifying place to begin with.”

Then he made eye contact with Gissendaner, and he felt the need to compose himself.

“I closed my eyes for about 20 seconds, just to say, ‘Okay … Understand what this is, and what you’re about to see.'”

Perhaps the above quote is the best way to listen to this podcast: understand what it is, and what you are about to hear. Hullinger’s descriptions are sometimes extremely graphic; his emotions and perspective, though, are critical to absorb for any journalist and anyone seeking to get a better understanding of a profoundly difficult issue.

“I think sometimes we put the issue of death way behind us,” he told me. “The truth is, it is always near us.”

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