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PODCAST EPISODE #32: “Best Of”, Covering the Big Stories

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A few weeks ago I rounded up some of my favorite podcasts that surrounded a specific theme: why we act the way to do as recipients of storytelling.

This week, I continue the “Best Of” tradition with a different topic: how reporters handle the tasks of covering giant stories.

These are not the stories that lead the newscast one night and disappear the next. These are the stories that carry on for days and weeks, often commanding national attention (and the national media that comes with that).

Such brings us to Episode #32 of the Telling The Story podcast: a “Best Of” edition on covering the big stories.

You’ll hear snippets from previous episodes with the following guests:

Dave Schwartz, sports anchor at KARE-TV in Minneapolis, on heading to Russia to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics (5:30-10:18): “I don’t think you could ever be prepared until you get into the situation and have to do it … I was prepared that it was going to be difficult, but I don’t think anyone could have made me feel better about the security until we were down on the ground.”

Claudine Ewing, anchor and reporter at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, on handling the 2014 “Snowvember” storm that blanketed parts of the city (7:45-11:05): “A storm can really, really change lives for people, and then as reporters we have to be sensitive and then remember: those are also stories that can told, too.”

Kathleen Cairns, reporter at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, on covering the death of Freddie Gray and the protests and riots that followed (4:55-9:00): “As journalists, it doesn’t matter that your shift ended. You keep going. If it’s your day off, and you hear of something big, you jump in the car and go. There are some people who have that and some people who don’t.”

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2015 (so far), audio/video edition

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.

We have reached the halfway point of 2015, which has brought about some strong journalism about riveting topics. With that in mind, the time is right for some “Best Of” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year so far next week. This week, my three favorite audio/video pieces from January through June, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

South Carolina officer is charged with murder of Walter Scott (4/7/15, New York Times): There is no doubt about it.

The most powerful piece of storytelling this year came from a citizen’s cell phone camera*.

A South Carolina man captured video of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shooting a man named Walter Scott five times in the back, killing him. The clip launched an arrest, an avalanche of coverage, and a new chapter in the conversation on law enforcement.

As for the accompanying article, New York Times writers Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo wisely let the video do most of the talking, playing it straight and telling a thorough story. The Times received the video from the Scott family’s lawyer, and it sure made its mark.

*I debated whether to categorize this as written or audio/video, but I went with the latter because the video is truly the story here. This piece had such resonance because of the cell phone camera video, not the accompanying article.
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PODCAST EPISODE #30: Kathleen Cairns, reporter, WBFF-TV

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Before you listen to this podcast, watch this video:

This is a compilation from the tremendous, NPPA award-winning photography team at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, profiling the extraordinary week surrounding the death and funeral of Freddie Gray.

When major stories break — and then last for seven straight days of intense coverage — one can ultimately lose sight of all of the moments that comprise it. But during a tumultuous week in Baltimore, the WBFF team stood out for its riveting images and poignant coverage, which come together in the piece above.

That story also sets the table for Episode #30 of the Telling The Story podcast, featuring one of the station’s reporters, Kathleen Cairns.

“It doesn’t matter if your shift ended,” Cairns told me. “You go for the story.”

That’s how Cairns and photographer Jed Gamber, who had both just finished their shift the Monday of Gray’s funeral, found themselves untethered to a live truck when riots broke out. While the rest of the news team stayed live with continuous coverage, Cairns and Gamber collected compelling video and put together this memorable story, which I shouted out recently on this blog:

Cairns has served as a reporter in Baltimore for 25 years, and she has won numerous awards during that quarter-century. In this case, she brought wisdom, tenacity, and — most importantly — context to a volatile story.

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