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.
It’s an all-A/V edition of “3 Great Stories”.
After paying homage to three great print pieces last week, we turn this week to some outstanding storytelling in podcasts and television. Each case benefits from time — the time to allow an interview to breathe, the time to develop a full story of an individual, or the time to give an in-depth look at a subject you never thought deserved one.
Jason Collins interview (4/30/13, The B.S. Report): Jason Collins was all over the news last week, starting with his coming-out announcement on Sports Illustrated’s web site — a wonderfully written and powerful piece in its own right. After it, he did several interviews and was the subject of a slew of articles.
In the process, Collins became an elevated figure. Many of the pieces about him last week talked more about what he represents than who he is.
For me, one interview stood out for going in the opposite direction.
Bill Simmons is, of course, the most popular writer at ESPN and Grantland.com, but he has proven to be a deft and skilled interviewer on his B.S. Report podcast, during which he regularly gets notable subjects to reveal unique insights into themselves. Simmons did a one-hour podcast with Collins Tuesday, and it is a seminar on how to conduct an interview. He keeps things light in many spots, chats basketball — including Collins’ ability to bend the rules and frustrate big-name opponents in the process — and does the seemingly impossible in the process: finds out details about Collins’ experience that had not yet been revealed in the tons of articles and columns written the previous day.
A detail that stunned me? Collins got a congratulatory phone call from Tim Hardaway, the former NBA player who once famously said, “I hate gay people.”
Simmons is a polarizing figure in sports media, but he has always been a terrific storyteller. His best attribute? He knows how to connect with people, whether his massive audience or his interview subjects. Here, while everyone else treated Collins as a hero, Simmons treated him as a human … and obtained the most human coverage of Collins as a result.