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PODCAST EPISODE #55: Justin Hinton, reporter, WLOS-TV

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It was a pretty cool moment.

At last year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, one of the loudest ovations came for someone in the audience.

One of our speakers was talking about the innovative work being done at his company, and he showed a live shot from a reporter and photographer who happened to be in attendance at the workshop. During the shot, for a story about a suspect who left a fingerprint at the scene, the reporter smudged his thumb on the camera, and the photographer panned toward a light that enabled the thumbprint to appear on the camera.

Check it out:

The workshop crowd erupted … because the reporter and photographer had made the extra effort to conceive and execute a compelling and eye-catching live shot.

Fast forward a year later, and that reporter — WLOS-TV’s Justin Hinton — has gone from attending a workshop to presenting. He will be speaking with coworker Evan Donovan at the 2017 Sound of Life Storytelling Workshop.

Hinton is my guest on Episode #55 of the Telling the Story podcast.

Check out this episode for a great discussion of how to strengthen one’s live shots, which often veer to the extremes of either sameness or gimmickry. Hinton also talks about the moves he made in college to catalyze a strong start in the business.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, written 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 will post my three favorite audio/video stories of the year next week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite written pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Brotherhood (3/23/16, Bleacher Report): Early on in “Brotherhood”, Howard Beck’s infinitely engrossing long-form story about the friendship between two basketball superstars, one of those stars makes a poignant statement.

“In our sport, or sports in general, everyone wants instant oatmeal,” says LeBron James. “Put it in the microwave, hit 30 seconds, you got a meal. Sometimes, no matter how great you are, it doesn’t happen like that.”

Now replace “sports” with “journalism”. In this era, many audiences — and news bosses — demand “instant oatmeal” from journalists, seeking and investing in clickbait and easy answers over more layered, complicated work.

Stories like this prove what one can get by waiting for a splendid meal.

Beck presents a fascinating portrait of two players — James and Carmelo Anthony — whose friendship and rivalry have provided a powerful undercurrent to the NBA’s past dozen years. This piece made headlines for a different “instant oatmeal” quote, where James muses how he would love to, one day, join forces with Anthony. But that quote comes at the end. The rest is a beautiful blend of smile-worthy memories, did-you-know-that stories, and revealing quotes from two of the league’s best.

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Our 3 most popular posts of 2016 (so far)

Allow me to present two important reasons for this post:

  1. We have reached the halfway point of 2016.
  2. I am on vacation this week.

I can think of no better time, then, to run the blog world’s version of a clip show: the three most popular posts from 2016 that have appeared on the Telling The Story blog. Here are the links, with excerpts from each piece:

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

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.

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A farewell for the year … and a little longer

283.

That’s the number of entries I have posted on this blog since I began in February 2013.

Writing a blog, producing a podcast, and interviewing fellow storytellers has been an extraordinary experience. I held off on starting a blog for a long time because I did not believe I could commit to it on a regular basis. But for three years — with the exception of a few holiday and vacation weeks — I did just that.

The good news? This 283rd entry will not be my last.

The bad news? It will be my last — or, at least, my last regularly scheduled entry — for a little while.

I am taking a break from the blog through the first quarter of 2016. I will be working on some big projects, both inside and outside of work, and need to be able to commit fully to them. I plan to resume at some point in April, continuing with the same interviews, story compilations, and reflections that have filled this space for the past three years.

I might also dip in every so often, if I feel the need, with an unscheduled entry. I have learned quite a bit since launching this blog, but more than anything I have seen the positive impact of discussing the oft-untold side of my field. I do not want to lose that, even as I scale back temporarily.

In the meantime, thank you for reading Post #283 as well as the rest of my Telling The Story offerings. I truly appreciate it, and I look forward to returning to the blog next spring!

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.

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Japan, Kansas City & pop songs

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.

Biracial beauty queen challenges Japan’s self-image (5/29/15, New York Times): The Internet gives us every opportunity to learn about the cultures of others.

When one can survey the work of journalists around the world, one can better learn about all the world has to offer.

The irony here is that the New York Times’ Martin Fackler is very much a traditional journalist; he just happens to be the newspaper’s bureau chief in Tokyo.  His lens brings fascinating stories, such as this one about Ariana Miyamoto, the new Miss Universe Japan who has gained as much attention for her heritage as her accolades.

Fackler’s straightforward yet thorough reporting provide a powerful profile of not just Miyamoto — navigating the waters as a mixed-race resident of “proudly homogenous Japan” — but her country’s culture.

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Down with Periscope? I’m still working on it

It always comes down to time.

As journalists and storytellers, we are constantly faced with limits to our time: every story has a deadline, every shoot has an end, and — particularly in TV and radio — every word we speak takes up valuable space in our story’s window.

But that says nothing of our limits in dealing with free time. How much do we choose to invest? Do we work a little longer to make a story just right? Do we get up early to call sources?

And do we attempt to master every new wave of technology that comes through the universe?

I have been a journalist for 12 years, and in that seemingly short span, I have already seen the rise of Facebook, Twitter, apps, Instagram, and Vine on social media. In each case, we as a journalism community seemed to go through a similar cycle: early resistance, followed by sweeping infatuation, ending with a happy medium of incorporation. Some outlets have fared better than others; Twitter remains the go-to way to update breaking news in a flash, while Facebook has become the place to build devoted followings and start conversations. Instagram and Vine have seen less success in the journalism community; Vine in particular seems to have fallen spectacularly after such an invigorating start. I possess a Vine account but rarely use it; I know few journalists who remain committed to it.

Now comes Periscope.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring hearing, fatherhood, & photography

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.

Veteran gets overdue hearing aids after VA delay (5/18/15, KARE-TV): Like any great investigative piece, this epic from KARE-TV’s A.J. Lagoe and Gary Knox details the process of research, phone calls, and interviews that ultimately lead to results.

But unlike many investigative pieces, this one shines brightest from its human center.

Reporter Lagoe and photographer Knox tell the story of Denny Madson, who has been waiting more than a year for VA-approved hearing aids. Madson wants the devices for one overarching reason: so he can hear his wife, Darlene, who is suffering in the hospital and can barely speak above a whisper.

Lagoe’s script and Knox’s camerawork set up some touching moments between the couple, including the happy ending. This is a textbook example of how to personalize an otherwise visually challenging story.

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PODCAST EPISODE #30: Kathleen Cairns, reporter, WBFF-TV

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Before you listen to this podcast, watch this video:

This is a compilation from the tremendous, NPPA award-winning photography team at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, profiling the extraordinary week surrounding the death and funeral of Freddie Gray.

When major stories break — and then last for seven straight days of intense coverage — one can ultimately lose sight of all of the moments that comprise it. But during a tumultuous week in Baltimore, the WBFF team stood out for its riveting images and poignant coverage, which come together in the piece above.

That story also sets the table for Episode #30 of the Telling The Story podcast, featuring one of the station’s reporters, Kathleen Cairns.

“It doesn’t matter if your shift ended,” Cairns told me. “You go for the story.”

That’s how Cairns and photographer Jed Gamber, who had both just finished their shift the Monday of Gray’s funeral, found themselves untethered to a live truck when riots broke out. While the rest of the news team stayed live with continuous coverage, Cairns and Gamber collected compelling video and put together this memorable story, which I shouted out recently on this blog:

Cairns has served as a reporter in Baltimore for 25 years, and she has won numerous awards during that quarter-century. In this case, she brought wisdom, tenacity, and — most importantly — context to a volatile story.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring ATL, Mad Men, & a new heart

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.

If we win again, we’ll be one again (4/21/15, Bitter Southerner): This one falls under the category of, “I only heard about it this week, but it actually came out nearly a month ago, but that’s OK, because it’s wonderful.”

Leave it to the Bitter Southerner to bring forth a beautifully written article from a veteran journalist about the changing landscape of Atlanta sports. Ray Glier discusses how, as baseball’s Braves prepare to move out of the city and into the nearest suburbs, basketball’s Hawks have seen a renaissance this year, on the court and in the stands.

Glier wrote all this before the Hawks advanced to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, and his prose, in retrospect, seems all the more prescient. Glier blends the right amount of lofty wordplay and contextual background, while the web site’s Gregory Miller provides magnetic photos.

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5 active, insightful journalism blogs from educators

These are five “classes” you should audit immediately.

As a TV reporter in a major market, I can easily get myopic about my job if I so choose. I can focus on the inner workings of Atlanta, the politics of my station and its competitors, and whatever story happens to sit in front of me at the time.

But I always aim to fight that instinct. Instead, in addition to working hard on my various stories, I strive to both improve my skills and examine my industry.

I find, in the blogosphere, a perfect catalyst.

One need not look far to find a sea of worthy blogs about journalism, and some of my favorites come from those who teach. Professors and educators often provide perspectives that are both thoughtful and prescient; in many ways, they get paid to look ahead. I always appreciate those who take time to instruct not just their students, but anyone with the Internet and an open ear.

Here are five of my favorites, all of whom post regular if not semi-regular updates:

Jay Rosen, New York University: The founder of PressThink, Rosen will next year hit his 30th anniversary on the journalism faculty at NYU. His blog succeeds in part because of Rosen’s own knowledge and experience, which comes through whether discussing the White House Correspondents Association or Facebook’s Newsfeed. But Rosen truly stands out because of his willingness to collaborate: his posts nearly always feature links to other articles, alternative perspectives, or background posts that enhance his own reasoning.

Meg Heckman, University of New Hampshire: Here is another great blog for mere thought expansion. Heckman writes about a diverse array of topics, and she finds inventive, informative ways of presenting herself. Her most recent post as of this writing, an inside look into her work as a juror for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, is a must-read.

Shawn Montano, Emily Griffith Technical College: From the heartland of Colorado comes one of the strongest how-to web sites for anyone who edits video. Montano fills his Edit Foundry blog with real-life, step-by-step examples of editing at its finest; I read every post, and I always walk away with valuable insight.

Joy Mayer, University of Missouri: An associate professor at Mizzou, Mayer constantly offers informative looks at modern-day journalism. She focuses predominantly on technology and community, both of which are rising factors on the current landscape.

Robert Hernandez, University of Southern California: He posts less frequently than the others, but Hernandez makes up for it with lively work that delves into the power of social media, language, technology, and devices. His is a look into the future of journalism — and an entertaining look at that.

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. The photo above is “Different types of pens” by .janneok.Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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