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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring James Brown, Times Square, & airports

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.

The whitewashing of James Brown (8/5/14, Huffington Post): Each of the “3 Great Stories” this week were alerted to me by others, each through social media.

I read about this article from one-time “3 Great Stories” honoree Tina McElroy Ansa, who Tweeted about it a few days ago. I became a big fan of Ansa’s when I discovered a speech of hers on The Moth, and she recommended a powerful piece here.

Screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard pens an op-ed for the Huffington Post about the startling lack of black voices behind biopics of black figures. Using the new James Brown movie as a starting point, Howard dissects an all-too-familiar situation =:

Indeed, all the producers, writers, and the director of the James Brown movie are white. No black people were hired until a few weeks before the cameras started rolling, the actors. In fact, several of the people involved in this whitewash are British.

The opening of Get On Up has triggered several articles to this effect, and they make powerful and valuable statements. Howard does several things here: (A) fight for his idea about Brown’s legacy, (B) lament the “Hollywood apartheid” against black filmmakers, and (C) provide enough background and hard data to make both points. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the importance of exposure

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.

Success as a storyteller comes in many different forms, but to me, it partially occurs when one exposes new or underrepresented viewpoints to a wider audience.

This, at times, is a truly difficult task. Sometimes, I feel, as media consumers, we rely so much on our own eyes and experiences that we naturally give shorter shrift to the filtered, seen-through-the-news experiences of others.

This week’s 3 Great Stories are all pieces that provide powerful insights that do not usually break through to the mainstream.

This is why poor people’s bad decisions make perfect sense (11/18/13, Huffington Post): A quick piece of background: this past week, through a leadership development program, I participated in a “simulated society” exercise, where dozens of us split up into regions and participated for a full day in an alternate world where people were randomly assigned to varying levels of money, power, and location. I was grouped in the poorest, we-have-nothing region.

And it was shocking.

It was shocking to see how people responded when placed outside of their comfort zones. Even in a game format, I felt emotions that I never imagined I would feel if I faced that situation in real life. And in the poorest region, our priorities were so much different than those of the other regions. We were essentially playing a different game — a much more urgent, desperate game.

With that experience under my belt, I possess even greater appreciation for an article like this one from Linda Tirado. She details her experiences as someone who self-describes as poor, and she discusses a similar mindset in real life to what my group saw during our game. I won’t spoil much, but this is a strong piece that gives exposure to a viewpoint rarely found in traditional news.

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10 headlines in 10 months on Vine’s influence on journalism

Journalists may very well remember 2013 as the year Vine entered their lives — and their professions.

The six-second video service was launched by Twitter this past January. In the months that have followed, journalists and storytellers have tried to figure out the most effective ways to use it.

And while many have predicted Vine’s dominance on the journalistic landscape, just as many have doubted its potential as a journalistic tool.

Ten months in, Vine is still a major — and fascinating — work in progress.

Here now, a month-by-month look at how the service has infiltrated our world, gaining supporters, skeptics, and followers along the way:

JANUARY: Six reasons why Vine is a killer news tool (Pando Daily): A mere four days after Vine’s launch, blogger Hamish McKenzie presents a list of reasons why journalists should love it. Among those reasons? “People will actually watch the video.” Media companies, engaged in a constant fight to expand their viewership and readership, no doubt feel the same way and take notice.

FEBRUARY: Using Vine to cover breaking news (Fast Company): This article spotlights Vine’s first big journalistic breakthrough. When a terrorist attacked the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkish journalist Tulin Daloglu used the service to upload clips from the aftermath. This happened barely a week after Vine’s launch.

MARCH: How journalists can use Vine (PBS Idea Lab): Here is a great time capsule of where the marriage of Vine and journalism stood, roughly two months into the service’s existence. Idea Lab author Joanna Kao describes its plusses and minuses, offers tools for journalists looking to incorporate it, and acknowledges its steadily rising popularity. That said, she also acknowledges one major limitation: “You thought providing context was hard? Try doing it in 6 seconds or less.”

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Mariano Rivera and Louis C.K.

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.

How do you tell the stories that tell themselves?

These days, it seems, you don’t.

When great moments happen, people share the moments themselves in ways they previously could not. So when Mariano Rivera cries after his final pitch at Yankee Stadium, people can now share the clip from the TV broadcast with each other online. (That’s what I did, frankly …) Same goes for when Louis C.K. drops another instant-classic comedy bit on a late-night talk show.

But moments demand stories, and stories demand storytellers.

So, what is the solution? Below, I offer three examples of how to work with a moment to tell a unique story:

Mariano Rivera says goodbye in an emotional final appearance at Yankee Stadium (9/26/13, New York Daily News): In the case of Mr. Rivera, a writer cannot possibly describe or capture the moment as well as the moment itself.

But the writer can provide context.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News does that here. Since we already know the who, what, when, and where of this moment, Feinsand does the natural thing and finds the two missing links: how and why. He takes you through the thought process of manager Joe Girardi, who orchestrated the moving moment of having longtime Yankees Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte remove Rivera from the game. He recounts the post-game comments of all three players involved, who provide a sincerity and openness rarely seen in pro athletes.

Many columns after the game focused on what Rivera could have been thinking during that moment, without actually figuring out if they were right. Feinsand goes to the source, and thus he provides an example of where straight reporting is valuable and complimentary to the action itself.

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