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PODCAST EPISODE #27: Mike Castellucci, reporter/anchor, WFAA-TV

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A few weeks ago, I raved about a half-hour special ran by WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas, at the end of last year.

It featured a compilation of stories shot, written, and edited by widely acclaimed feature reporter Mike Castellucci.

And his camera? It was the one on his iPhone.

Castellucci has become well known in Dallas — and, now, among TV news reporters and photographers nationwide — for his compelling piece of boundary-pushing storytelling. His features actually appear quite straightforward until you realize the equipment he used to shoot them.

But give him credit: he saw a need and attacked it, fearlessly flying into both multimedia journalism and iPhone videography. He wound up with an impressive result — and a powerful niche in his market.

Castellucci joins me for Episode #27 of the Telling The Story podcast.

“People ask me why,” he said, “and I think it was [because of] two reasons. One: I wanted to be first. And, the challenge of it … I had been doing stories on my iPhone 4, and I just said, ‘Let’s take it 19 steps further.'”

Here is a reporter who has had plenty of success in various markets, but he chose to take on a challenge many journalists would reject. He deserves some major kudos.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring street ball, Selma, & the iPhone

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 Carver Mobb (1/21/15, SB Nation): How fitting that, on the week of the Super Bowl, the most powerful piece of football-related writing focused on a different league.

Forget the 90,000,000 words written about Deflate-Gate. Check out this 4,000-word piece from Ivan Solotaroff about a New York City street football league that can be far rougher than the NFL:

If all sport is ritualized warfare, it’s often difficult to distinguish the two in rough-touch. That’s particularly true as playoffs approach, when midfield fights emptying both benches can involve fans, referees, even league commissioners, usually aging veterans of the sport. “City” (short for the Bronx’s Coop City/City Island League) was the most desired Chip, until recruiting refs became difficult and the commissioner’s tires were slashed.

This is a masterful and powerful story from SB Nation Longform, as Solotaroff works as both tour guide — explaining the rules, format, and stakes of the league — and profiler — providing poignant portraits of the athletes and others involved. He writes beautifully at every step.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring shutdowns, games, and iPhones

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.

In the future, in this space, I would like to focus more attention on storytelling through straight reporting.

Recently, while searching for stories for this column, I have found myself gravitating toward pieces of analysis, in-depth research, and opinion. To be frank, these are the pieces that (A) typically catch my eye, (B) get shared more on social media, and (C) truly increase my understanding of stories in the mainstream.

I often, as a result, overlook the value of straight-ahead reporting.

Readers and viewers rely on the media for a seemingly simple need: to be kept properly informed. During stories like this month’s government shutdown, journalists must struggle with trying to provide an appropriate amount of context with the story’s nuts and bolts. How do they do this objectively? How do they maintain the trust of both sides of a divided audience? How do they explain a complicated matter to a population often too attention-divided to listen?

I give major kudos to the reporters who toe these lines the best, and I want to make a stronger effort to use this space to support that.

But I also believe, with stories such as the shutdown, people can benefit most by developing a wider understanding. They should stay updated on day-to-day events, but they should also make an effort to learn why those events are occurring.

Perhaps this is why I most appreciate stories like the ones below, not just on the shutdown and debt ceiling fight but even on the launch of the new iPhone. After each piece, readers walk away with a greater perspective on what’s happening right in front of them.

Understanding the game being played in Washington (10/4/13, Harvard Business Review): Want a perfect example of that perspective?

Check out this article.

Justin Fox explains the current debt ceiling fight through classic game theory. He describes the actions of the President and Congress through the lens of a game — a lens that actually brings everything much more into focus.

Early on, Fox demurs that he wrote the piece out of “an attempt to find a way to think about the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall.” But, he goes on, “My reading made the dynamics at work in Congress and at the White House a bit clearer — and thus slightly less maddening, if not less ominous.”

If you are looking for a crash course on how we got here and why our political leaders are making their current decisions, this is it. I also like how Fox, in addition to writing a thorough and easily digestible article, responds thoughtfully to the entry’s comments. Good journalists should relish the chance to defend and explain their work, as Fox does here.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the new iPhone, Netflix, & the Apple Store

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.

I have always been fascinated by how big-name corporations try to predict the future.

This is especially true when it comes to technology.

With the tech world changing so rapidly, I continually find myself interested in how the big names in that business try to stay ahead of the curve. Some — like Apple — always seem to be on the right side of that wave. Others always seem to be playing catch-up.

I read three articles this week that offered an enlightening window into two major companies: Apple and Netflix. If you use their products, you will enjoy these pieces.

The secret of iOS7  (9/19/13, I, Cringely): The best tech writers are able to present their own visions of the future. In this case, technology journalist Mark Stephens — known by his pen name, Robert X. Cringely — delivers his predictions about Apple’s predictions.

Cringely dissects the release of Apple’s new iPhones and iOS7 operating system, positing a beautiful theory on where the ground-breaking company might be headed next:

Here’s what I think is happening. At the very moment when Apple critics are writing-off the company as a three- or four- or five-hit wonder, Apple is embracing the fact that desktop computers only represent about 15 percent of its income, making Apple clearly a mobile technology company. As such, it is more important for Apple to expand its mobile offerings than its desktops. So Apple in a sense is about to make the Macintosh deliberately obsolete.

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