Allow me to present two important reasons for this post:
- We have reached the halfway point of 2016.
- 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:
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.
This past April Fool’s Day, I was assigned to tell Clem’s story, and it was a great one. Clem, I was told, was a lifetime Georgian who had finally received the chance, after 96 years, to live her childhood dream.
That dream? She had always wanted to become a flight attendant.
Clem’s nursing facility, Christian City in Union City, Ga., arranged for her to receive honorary wings from Delta Airlines. The previous week, I learned, Delta employees had taken Clem through a sped-up “training day” and bestowed upon her the title she had long desired. I reached out to the airline and received video of the experience; to shoot my story, I simply needed to interview its star.
The interview turned out wonderful, but weeks later I remember everything else. Clem smiled the entire time and sparkled with gratitude for so many things in her life. She seemed genuinely touched by the opportunity to be interviewed for the local news. She also made sure I didn’t leave without looking at photographs of her five sisters and now-deceased husband.
This did not feel like a typical interview. It felt entirely disarming, so much so that when Clem poked fun at me during this little off-air exchange, she caught me completely off guard:
I cannot say it any more simply: Clem made my day.
Through my story that night, she made the days of many others.
It’s getting harder than ever to keep our viewers’ attention.
That’s what we keep hearing, and that’s why, we are told, we must adapt.
If attention spans are shrinking and devotion to broadcast news is dwindling, local news journalists must expand how we connect with others. I, for example, have talked a lot about the potential of social media to enable our work to reach unforeseen audiences. Maybe we all need to educate ourselves on new platforms and media in addition to our product on-air.
But we cannot forget about that product.
If anything, we need to step it up.
The best stories I saw last year demanded my attention, and I watched zero of them on television. I watched all of them online, via links and recommendations from colleagues and friends. I arrived upon them organically and, when I clicked on the videos, found myself instantly engrossed.
Last week the NPPA announced its Best of Photojournalism winners for last year, and I became engrossed again. I have, in several years past, authored blog posts about lessons learned from the competition’s champs, and I feel compelled to do so once more, thanks to some tremendous storytelling from some of the nation’s most talented journalists.