brenda wood

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Atlanta icons & an Alabama firefighter

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.

#GoodbyeBrenda: 11Alive bids farewell to an Atlanta icon (2/8/17, WXIA-TV): This past week, my newsroom in Atlanta lost a legend.

Longtime anchor Brenda Wood officially retired from local TV news, signing off Wednesday for the final time. I have used this space quite a bit in recent weeks to commemorate Wood and her work in Atlanta.

But I can think of no person better to honor such an icon than our newsroom’s other storytelling standout.

Jon Shirek is a phenomenal writer and a generous soul; I have interviewed him both on my Telling the Story podcast and for my book, The Solo Video Journalist. In this story, he does his homework and encapsulates the career of our colleague with sensitivity and admiration.

It’s a fitting tribute. After all, Wood never lacked command as an anchor; Shirek never lacks it as a writer.

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5 little-known stories that show the greatness of Brenda Wood

For nearly eight years, I have worked in the same newsroom as an Atlanta TV legend.

But I have only witnessed a fraction of what makes her one.

Brenda Wood has been the foundation of the 11Alive newsroom for two decades; she has been an institution in Atlanta for nearly three. Her last day Wednesday marks the end of a 40-year career in television news – one filled with more honors, distinctions, and trailblazing moments than most of us can hope to accomplish.

Through my much shorter time at 11Alive, I have shared many conversations with Brenda while admiring the command and vision that set an example for so many in our newsroom.

Only recently did I learn the extent of that vision … and how far it goes back.

I was fortunate to interview Brenda for nearly an hour for my Telling the Story podcast. In that time, we covered many topics, and Brenda told some fascinating stories about how she developed into the woman she is today.

Those stories, to me, illuminated what makes her so special.

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PODCAST EPISODE #50: Brenda Wood, anchor, WXIA-TV

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Let me first say the following:

Thank you.

I did not anticipate reaching 50 podcast episodes — or four years of the blog as a whole — when I recorded my first one in 2013. I have continued to write these posts and produce these episodes, in part, because of the consistent and genuine encouragement I have received from readers like you. That feedback helps keep me going.

The other thing that keeps me going? It’s a sentiment expressed with beauty and brevity by my guest on this milestone episode:

“Always the student. Always learning.”

I would admire anyone who follows that philosophy, regardless of profession, but I especially admire those who preach it in local television news … because it can be so easy to do the opposite. The business often seems to conspire sameness, and I strive to find guests on this podcast who never get comfortable or complacent.

Fortunately for me, and for anyone who works at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, such a person has been the spirit of our newsroom for two decades.

Brenda Wood is the reigning dean of Atlanta TV news, and she has worked in the business for forty years. In that time, she has broken barriers, interviewed dignitaries, and collected numerous awards. Beyond that, she has always seized the chance to extend her reach. She has stood out in recent years for a daily opinion segment called “Brenda’s Last Word” and ambitious projects like a half-hour documentary spotlighting the work of the Carter Center in Ethiopia.

In whatever she does, Wood aims to spread influence and make impact. She has been the bedrock of our building for so long that we will face a mammoth challenge when she moves on.

On February 7, she is doing just that. Wood will sign off from 11Alive for the final time.

Brenda Wood is my guest on this 50th episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

This interview was supposed to last 30 minutes, but it went 45. Wood is rich with stories about the past, speaking about the challenges of starting her career as a black female reporter in the South. She also says plenty about the present, offering advice to young journalists on how to exercise their own influence and remain committed to their communities.

And, of course, she talks about her future, which will be filled with that wonderful sentiment:

“Always the student. Always learning.”

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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. (more…)

Tom Brokaw, Brenda Wood, and learning from legends

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.

The man can just summon Tom Brokaw on an ordinary weekday afternoon? What other mystical powers does he possess?

But our questions about Angotti quickly gave way to our excitement about Brokaw.

He’s calling? Right now? About what?

And then, once the A/V folks in the journalism lab had patched Brokaw’s call to the classroom’s speaker system, we waited until …

“Hello?”

That voice — part gravel, part gravitas — confirmed our hopes. Tom Brokaw was on the line. (more…)