john wilson

PODCAST EPISODE #54: John Wilson, chief photographer, KSL-TV

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‘Tis the season … for journalists to focus on everything journalism-related but their jobs.

After the May sweeps period comes the month of June, which always seems to be the ideal time for award ceremonies and workshops. I will be speaking at two workshops this month, and I plan to use this space to give each one some attention.

If you live in the Southeast, I encourage you to head to Asheville to check out the Sound of Life Media Southeast Storytelling Workshop, organized by my good friend (and former fellow workshop co-director) John Kirtley.

And if you live west of the Mississippi, I advise you to check out the NPPA Rocky Mountain Workshop in Salt Lake City from June 2-4.

If you need any convincing, just push play on this podcast.

John Wilson is the chief photographer at KSL-TV, the Salt Lake station that is hosting the workshop. He is a testament to the power of such events. Wilson began his career with aspirations of shooting Kentucky men’s basketball for a living; when he reached that goal at age 23, he became propelled by attending workshops to focus more on storytelling. That choice has led to massive career success — and the creation of this upcoming event in June.

Wilson is my guest on Episode #54 of the Telling the Story podcast.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Long live the local news feature

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.

Confession: I love watching a good local TV news feature.

Whereas many stories on television are so serious, these stories bring the levity. Also, because they deal with lighter topics, they often bring out more creative storytelling, since  reporters and photojournalists can have a bit more fun with them.

Enjoy the following three features — partly for their storytelling, but also because they will likely make you smile.

Frankfort senior’s dream of flying takes flight (7/4/13, WKYT-TV):  I did not love everything about this story. Specifically, I did not love the first 90 seconds. Reporter Sean Moody and photojournalist John Wilson tell a perfectly fine story about a senior citizen who reminisces beautifully about her departed husband.

It is an OK start but not totally unfamiliar ground and not particularly memorable.

And then the hot-air balloon comes in.

You quickly learn that the senior in question, Jean Broome, has been offered the opportunity — by her nursing home — to ride in a hot-air balloon; it is her “next trip” after taking so many adventures with her husband. Then the photography gets gorgeous, the writing gets truly poignant, and the personality of the story’s subject comes out in droves.

Again, the first minute-and-a-half of this story is fine on its own. But the last two minutes are outstanding, and the feature as a whole will absolutely warm your heart.

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3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Finding characters and dissecting cereal boxes

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.

Towards the end of last week’s podcast with KDVR photojournalist Anne Herbst, the two-time NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year offered this piece of advice to young journalists about storytelling:

“I’ll get these really wonderfully shot stories … and I don’t care about them at all because there’s not a compelling person,” Herbst said. “You can have all these pretty shots of mountains and sunsets, but in the end what you remember is the person and the story.”

With that in mind, I selected several stories this week that thrived because they found a great person within them. The authors do not provide a whole lot of flair in their storytelling; instead, they let their characters do most of the talking. And because they do, their stories shine.

(Oh, and if that’s not your bag, I also chose an enjoyable, semi-fascinating story about cereal boxes …)

Raising the flag in Bethel Acres after tornadoes (5/28/13, KFOR-TV): Here’s a bonus story from the Moore, Okla. tornado — a topic I covered in last week’s 3 Great Stories.

But this story is as good as they come.

Reporter Sara Celi mostly hangs in the background here, putting the focus on the people of Bethel Acres, specifically a staff sergeant of the Air Force who walks stoically at the start of the story, clutching an American flag in his hand.

His name is Alan Burch. His quest, to hang and fly the flag in the middle of the wreckage, is beautiful — as is the show of support from the community members who aid him.

Photographer Norris Kyles documents the action step by step as Burch and his team accomplish their mission. Then he cuts to a shot of Burch saluting Old Glory. In that shot, Burch’s trademark stoicism gives way to a swell of pride in his eyes. It’s a touching moment.

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