My favorite posts of 2014: A look back

I am spending the next few weeks looking back at 2014, recapping the best stories I watched or read while also reflecting on my favorite blog posts of the year.

For whatever reason, I have had a lot to write about.

I remember feeling somewhat nervous as I began my second year of writing for the Telling The Story blog. Would I start to run thin on topics? Would I lose the momentum I had developed last year?

Far from it.

Between my Olympics journey and several other professional successes, I found plenty of blogging inspiration during 2014.

Here are my five favorite entries from the past year, with excerpts; thank you all for reading:

An outstanding NPPA honor, and a prideful achievement (3/26/14): At the moment when I received one of the greatest honors of my career, I could not have felt less prestigious.

I was not dressed in my black-tie finest, attending some lavish awards banquet, hoping to walk up on a stage and give an acceptance speech. I was not surrounded by my colleagues, loved ones, and journalists from all over.

I was sitting alone on my couch, in my gym clothes, staring at a laptop.

And that was completely, absolutely, undoubtedly fine.

The TV branch of the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, held its annual awards show Monday night. The association named its photographers and stations of the year for each of its three regions. It also named its national Solo Video Journalist of the Year, in a category full of talented one-person bands who shoot and edit their own reports.

I am thrilled to announce that I was named 2013’s Solo Video Journalist of the Year.

What it’s like when your story goes viral (6/18/14): On Friday, a man named Bryant Collins saved the life of a 15-month-old baby girl, whom he spotted on the side of a highway.

On Monday, I interviewed Collins about his unexpected opportunity to become a hero.

Neither of us expected what happened next.

In a span of 25 hours, the story of Bryant Collins — and the baby he rescued — grew from my NBC affiliate in Atlanta to NBC Nightly News, going extraordinarily viral along the way. I have never seen anything like it, at least with one of my own stories.

And if I had to pick a story of mine to go viral, I might just choose this one.

Letters and life lessons along the Appalachian Trail (7/23/14): Think of any big day in your life that required a large amount of build-up: your wedding day, perhaps, or your high school graduation. In the moments just beforehand, you had no idea of how the event would actually go; you simply had your imagination and whatever it had concocted in your mind. And nothing could take those images away from you — only time, and the eventual start of what you had so dearly anticipated.

That enthusiasm is often so elusive in life, and it can be such a necessity when facing far longer commitments, like a marriage or a new job. Reality is so much more complex than one’s idealistic dreams, and when those dreams are tested, passion becomes critical.

I think we all reach points in our lives where we forget how it feels to be so excited about something, to only see the possibilities without being weighed down by the inevitable complications.

At those times, we can definitely use a reminder.

Tom Brokaw, Brenda Wood, and learning from legends (11/19/14): An icon was in the building, and everyone knew it.

Technically, he was on the phone, but that did not matter to the 20 students in the Broadcast Writing class at Northwestern University.

We were juniors in college, we were aspiring anchors and reporters, and we were about to speak to Tom Brokaw.

The whole situation had taken everyone by surprise. We had arrived at the TV lab for our usual class, only to be greeted by the chair of our broadcast department, Joe Angotti.

“I think we’re going to be able to get Brokaw on the phone,” he announced.

Angotti, I should mention, was once Brokaw’s executive producer at NBC Nightly News. We students already knew that fact and revered Angotti accordingly, but we never expected this.

Embracing the unpredictable, and producing better stories (12/3/14): When the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. reached its verdict regarding Officer Darren Wilson last Monday, I knew what I would be covering in Atlanta that Tuesday.

Rallies had been planned. The officer, who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown, would now go free, and many in Ferguson had already responded with protests, marches, and in some cases, looting and rioting.

The verdict left me with so many emotions and opinions, but when I received my assignment the following day — to cover the numerous daytime rallies occurring across Atlanta — I knew I needed to shelve my own thoughts and listen to those of the protesters.

I could not enter with preconceived notions; I had to ask questions, absorb the answers, and truly reflect before I wrote my script.

I could have easily done the opposite, especially given the massive time constraints I faced that day. My photographer and I were given five hours to shoot three rallies and produce a 90-second package. That assignment would have seemed far less daunting had I approached it with a cookie-cutter feel.

But if I had done that, I would not have told an honest story.

And this story — like every story, for that matter — demanded an honest, genuine approach.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at

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