PODCAST EPISODE #1: Jon Shirek, reporter, WXIA-TV

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Let the next chapter begin.

Two months after kicking off the Telling the Story blog, I am proud to introduce the Telling the Story podcast. This will continue the discussion about how journalists — and all of us — reach the world. Each episode of the podcast will feature an esteemed storyteller, answering questions and conversing about both the craft of storytelling and its role in the changing media landscape.

I could not be more thrilled to begin the podcast with one of my favorite storytellers: WXIA-TV reporter Jon Shirek.

Jon is a friend and colleague of mine. We have worked together for four years at the NBC affiliate in Atlanta; of course, I arrived just as Jon was beginning his fourth decade at the station. He is, I would say, the most respected and veteran storyteller in a newsroom that houses many great ones.

He also recently made a big change. Five years ago Jon was asked to become a backpack journalist, meaning he would have to shoot and edit his own stories instead of working with a photographer. He warily accepted the challenge, and he continues to crank out terrific work.

This is no small feat. Young journalists today are told in college they will have no choice but to shoot their own stories. Jon had been working with a photographer for several decades before he was asked. To learn the skills while remaining a great storyteller has been an impressive achievement, one that often gets taken for granted in the WXIA newsroom.

“I think it has made me a better reporter in a lot of ways,” Jon told me. “It has helped me economize my approach to stories so that I have a better idea, while I’m talking to somebody, the direction the story needs to go.” That said, he notes, “I am still a work in progress. I cannot pretend to be a photographer after five years.”

Among the other topics we discuss on the podcast:

  • The changes in local news: “Years ago, I think of the hours I spent in the public library, just researching, getting background information on a topic. Now, in a few clicks, in an hour, you can get that background information.”
  • The importance of research in crafting emotional stories: “You do the best you can getting as much background as you can on a story … fill your head with facts, and arm yourself with that muscle. Then you can try to get to know and understand the people involved, and you can leap past the recitation of facts.”
  • The challenges of creating work that lasts: “If you know that you’ve done such a good job that they don’t notice you – they notice the story – then you can feel like you’ve done a responsible job. I think when people can act and react and make a difference in some people’s lives because of work that you are doing, then that’s good. That’s a good thing.”

Listen to the podcast at the top of the page or download it to listen later. Enjoy!

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.

5 thoughts on “PODCAST EPISODE #1: Jon Shirek, reporter, WXIA-TV

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