3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Covering the Moore, Oklahoma tornado

Every week, I will 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.

This seems to be way too familiar an occurrence.

Tornadoes take hold mainly during the springtime, and this year they have struck numerous states across the South and Southeast. The latest one, an EF5 tornado that leveled buildings and homes across Moore, Okla., left at least 24 dead and hundreds injured.

The hardest part in dealing with these tragedies, I think, is trying to make sense of them. The same applies to covering them as journalists.

This week, I picked out three examples from the coverage of the Moore tornado in which the journalists and storytellers did not try to impose their own beliefs or wills on the situation. They simply conveyed it and let the horror — and the emotions that followed, both positive and negative — speak for itself.

A tornado hits Moore, Oklahoma (5/20/13, The New Yorker): A month ago, I praised Amy Davidson of the New Yorker for her coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. In that case, I appreciated her ability to take a stand about a difficult issue.

In this case, I appreciate her abilities to simply capture the details and atmosphere of a scene.

Davidson wrote this story as the specific information about the tornado was still developing; the twister’s death count and EF rating had yet to be officially determined. She doesn’t run for her lack of answers; she embraces them. Davidson aggregates the most piercing details from the first day of the tornado and presents them in a clear and sympathetic way, acknowledging both the potential big-picture ramifications and the immediate, visceral reactions.


3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Starring big data, Disney, and JFK

Every week, I will 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.

In many, if not most, of my commentary posts, I often focus on the craft of storytelling as opposed to the research.

But I often find, especially when reading print pieces, I am drawn to those that specialize in information — especially when the information is instructive about a particular topic.

This brand of story would seem to play much better on a print or web-based medium. The authors do not have to worry about providing a visual element (although they can, especially on the web), and they can instead focus on finding the most digestible way to convey their content.

I selected two stories this week that fit that bill. One discusses the rise of “big data”; the other takes a look behind the curtain at Disney. The content in these pieces is engrossing, but it is enhanced by authors who present their information in an accessible manner.

The Rise of Big Data (May/June issue, Foreign Policy): This is a looooooong read on the web.

But it works. (That said, I assume it works much better in the actual magazine.)

Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger detail the ways in which “big data” has become a ubiquitous part of almost everything in society. I have been reading about big data for quite some time, but this is the first article that really provides a comprehensive look at the industry, its application in day-to-day society, and its potential down the road.