brandon mowry

5 lessons from the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism 2016 video winners

Every year I watch the video winners of the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism awards.

Every year I go back to the same thought:

The building blocks of storytelling are absolutely important to a great piece of journalism, but they require the foundation of a story worth telling.

If we cannot get in the door with meaningful material, we cannot expect viewers to appreciate the various techniques on which we pride ourselves. Last year I profiled several BOP winners on this site and drew lessons from them. In my introduction, I wrote: “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.”

Ditto for 2016. In general, the stories that won BOP awards — and stood out in public as well — were triumphs of content over technique.

Here are five first-place winners and the lessons I took from them:

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring silver linings at difficult times

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.

‘Awesome’ cat survives fires in Wears Valley (11/30/16, WBIR-TV): The three stories I’m showing this week share a common thread.

They all deal with uplifting moments during trying situations.

No story this week, for example, captured the attention of the Southeast like the massive wildfires in Tennessee. So many reporters have done valiant work reporting on the harder elements of the situation, but others have produced similarly poignant pieces about the glimmers of positivity and hope amidst the tragedy.

WBIR-TV solo video journalist Becca Habegger does so here. She finds a family who lost its home and narrowly escaped as it caught fire. The parents and four children got out, as did their two dogs. For a while, though, they could not find their two cats. Habegger shows what happened when they did, and it’s a great moment.

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