kare-tv

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring KARE-TV’s “Breaking the News”

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.

One girl’s card to “Mr. Phil” (7/11/16, KARE-TV): I live in Atlanta, Ga. and have, in my life, spent maybe a week in the Twin Cities.

But I have found myself drawn to a 30-minute local newscast coming straight from Minnesota’s strongest station.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul is regarded by many as possessing one of the most talented groups of storytellers in country, both in front of and behind the camera. Earlier this year, the station debuted a new show called “Breaking The News”, which offers an alternative way of looking at the major news in the area — and, sometimes, around the country.

The show delivers, I find, consistently thoughtful takes and treatments. Take the story above, about a third-grader who wrote a card to the “lunch man” at her school named “Mr. Phil”. That man is Philando Castile, whose death has sparked protests nationwide. In this piece, the protests get pushed aside to allow for one girl’s voice, which, in its unintentional innocence, reminds of the humanity in everyone. “Breaking the News” host Jana Shortal conducts a tender interview with the girl, 8-year-old Leila Ramgren, and photographer (and one-time Telling the Story podcast guest) Ben Garvin captures the interview with a set of cameras that enable the emotions to shine.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016 (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 are halfway through 2016, which means the continuation of an annual tradition: the “Best Of (so far)” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year so far last 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:

Government mistakenly declares Minnesota man dead (5/10/16, KARE-TV): This story, from talented KARE-TV investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe, is hard to believe.

But it’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s serious and concerning.

Lagoe looks into the case of a Minnesota man named Steven Monno, one of 12,000 people each year who are wrongly declared dead by the Social Security Administration. Monno and his sister attempt unsuccessfully to beat the bureaucracy, so they enlist Lagoe and the investigative team to help straighten out the situation.

Lagoe indeed straightens it out, but he also unfolds a widespread issue and envelops this personal story in a national context. One can hear a certain amount of disbelief in his voice, as if he spent half the time saying to himself, “Really? This happens?”

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PODCAST EPISODE #40: Boyd Huppert, reporter, KARE-TV

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At the end of this podcast, I joke, “I can retire the podcast now!”

Don’t worry … I don’t plan to retire it. But I probably could, now that I have interviewed one of the most revered and decorated storytellers ever.

My guest for Episode #40 is Boyd Huppert.

The feature reporter for KARE-TV in the Twin Cities is known nationwide for his absorbing and touching stories, which regularly find their way to NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. For many in local TV, Huppert is an idol — the man whose career and talents we all dream of having. I can’t think of a single storyteller who does it better.

In recent years, Huppert has also become known as a teacher. He works with stations worldwide, speaks at conferences, and last year even gave a TED Talk:

Huppert will also, I’m proud to announce, be the keynote speaker at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held in Atlanta June 10th and 11th. I am organizing and co-hosting the conference with photojournalist (and one-time podcast guest) John Kirtley of WLOS-TV in Asheville. We welcome anyone looking to improve as a storyteller and receive inspiration from some of the best in the country, particularly our keynote speaker.

Click here to learn more and register for the conference, Feel free to e-mail me with questions at the address below. In the meantime, enjoy this podcast with a legendary storyteller who speaks about his background, offers advice for getting the most out of workshops, and gives his insights and tips for young journalists.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring May sweeps, 2016 edition

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.

Miracle? Blind woman sees again after unrelated surgery (5/11/16, WBBH-TV): It’s that time of year again.

Or, should I say, it’s one of several “that times” of year again.

Sweeps has arrived. Local TV stations across the country have now entered the crucial May ratings period, and they stack their shows with long-form stories that get regularly promoted.

Thankfully for the viewer, those stories are often very powerful.

Consider this one from reporter Chad Oliver and photographer Scott Reilly at NBC2 in Southwest Florida. They tell a tale I would not have believed if not for the medical professional in the story who confirms it: a elderly woman, who had lost her sight, regained it seemingly accidentally through surgery on her neck.

The woman is a grandmother and firecracker named Mary Ann whose personality carries the whole story. Oliver smartly lets her do so, writing in a way that elevates her character while continually adding layers of story and surprise. It’s smile-worthy, for sure.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring barbers, David Ortiz, & moving forward

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.

Twin barbers keep Fillmore County groomed and giggling (5/1/16, KARE-TV): This story is a virtual clinic on how to put together a TV news feature.

Naturally, it comes from the reporter who does features better than anyone in the country.

Boyd Huppert of KARE-TV in the Twin Cities worked with photographer Chad Nelson on this, and together they produced an ultra-enjoyable story about two barbers who seem to love two things above all: cutting hair and laughing. I hesitate to say much more, because I would prefer for you to see for yourself.

But I will say this: any up-and-coming reporter should watch this story twice. The first time, sit back and enjoy it. The second time, pay attention to everything Huppert does to craft a beautiful piece: his thoughtful, open-hearted voicing; his ability to write in and out of sound bites; and his way of building a story to a resolution that brings it all together.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2015, 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.

This is one of my favorite moments of the year.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

It always reminds me of how much magnificent work gets done every year. Here, for example, is my best-of list from 2014.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2015 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Elsa’s story (7/17/15, Denver Post): “Wow.”

That was all I could say after watching the “Elsa’s Story” documentary presented this week by the Denver Post.

The video accompanies a powerful article of the same name about 9-year-old Elsa, who “insisted as soon as she could speak that she was a girl, even though she was assigned male at birth.” The story truly revolves around the evolving acceptance of Elsa’s parents, specifically her mother, who essentially narrates the 16-minute documentary.

Sixteen minutes may seem like a long time to stare at a computer screen or focus on one’s cell phone, but the time pays off. The documentary’s length allows the viewer to process its images and words, in some ways journeying along with Elsa’s mother as she describes her struggle to understand Elsa’s maturation.

The video is full of poignant moments, most of which come from home movies of Elsa through childhood. Credit the Post’s Mahala Gaylord for the video and Jen Brown for the article — and the Post itself for investing such time and resources into a standout story.

#3) One-legged kicking coach inspires high school team (10/28/15, KARE-TV): If this story doesn’t win all kinds of awards next year, I will be stunned.

KARE-TV storyteller extraordinaire Boyd Huppert has done it again, this time thanks largely to the photography and editing of Kevin Sullivan. The visuals here are just stunning, from the blink-and-you-miss-them angles of football practice to the picturesque landscapes of Friday night football. They provide, for this story, a gorgeous aesthetic.

Huppert, as always, brings the piece’s soul.

He unfolds the story of a man named Larry, with one arm and one leg, who coaches kicking for a local high school football team. Huppert delivers the story with touching turns of phrase and that sing-song, lullaby-like cadence that immediately hooks a viewer.

This is beautiful work by all involved.

#2) Mondawmin Monday (4/27/15, WBFF-TV): There have been numerous stories and reports from Baltimore, some instructive and some less so, about the protests and riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

So much of the images and video have arrived as a stream — stations providing non-stop coverage and constant immediacy, which absolutely has its place in situations like this. But this story, from FOX 45 Baltimore’s Kathleen Cairns and Jed Gamber, shows the power of editing and context.

Given time — and a four-block radius — to document Monday’s action, reporter Cairns and photographer Gamber find themselves in the midst of smoking tear gas, a burning car, and numerous protesters and police. They capture it all with a sense of poignancy and objectivity; Gamber shoots and edits some powerful moments, and Cairns shows wise restraint with her script, stepping back and simply connecting the dots of those aforementioned moments.

This is one of the most haunting, powerful stories I have seen this year.

#1) 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.

 

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Team Ortho, Kyle Korver, & laughter

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.

Running for a cause? (11/12/15, KARE-TV): One of the hardest jobs in reporting for television? Making investigative stories look good.

TV stories are often built around moments, and with many pieces, one finds those moments naturally and visually. Investigative journalists must produce those moments informationally and confrontationally — a much tougher task in a visual medium.

In this piece, KARE 11’s A.J. Lagoe and Steve Eckert show how it’s done.

Uncovering deception and monetary misuse from a local non-profit, the duo layers this story with “Didja see that?” moments. Eckert edits nicely the sequence that shows the misuse of funds over several years, and Lagoe leaves the viewer with a jaw-dropper through his final revelation and confrontation with the man behind the non-profit.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring pop songs, pizza, & football

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.

Hit charade (October 2015, The Atlantic): How much do you want to know about how a chef prepares your meal? What about how a litany of behind-the-scenes employees prepare your favorite songs?

The answers to the latter come from this absorbing article, written by Nathaniel Rich for The Atlantic (with a major hat-tip to author John Seabrook, whose book The Song Machine supplies much of Rich’s material). With no concern for spoiling or party-pooping, Rich dives into the factories that produce, with seeming cold-hearted machinery, an increasing number of the hits that grace the Billboard charts.

Much of this story’s success derives from its thoroughness; Rich, through Seabrook, dives into the subject with great detail. It shows in paragraphs like this, including some wit from a writer basically saying Santa Claus isn’t real:

Pop hitmakers frequently flirt with plagiarism, with good reason: Audiences embrace familiar sounds. Sameness sells. Dr. Luke in particular has been accused repeatedly of copyright infringement. His defense: “You don’t get sued for being similar. It needs to be the same thing.” (Dr. Luke does get sued for being similar, and quite often; he has also countersued for defamation.) Complicating the question of originality is the fact that only melodies, not beats, can be copyrighted. This means a producer can sell one beat to multiple artists.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring three favorite storytellers

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.

A sweet surprise awaits you (9/22/15, 99% Invisible): The pieces in this week’s edition of “3 Great Stories” have a common strength: they all lead the audience on a journey.

Roman Mars and his team at 99% Invisible have practically perfected this structure, at least in podcast form. I have written about 99% Invisible so many times I have little left to say, but as long as Mars keeps producing exquisite episodes like this, I will continue to shout him out.

I don’t want to spoil this journey, but as you listen, appreciate the narrative build: from an innocuous story about Powerball to the rise of the fortune cookie to its surprising, serious, and historic background. Every few minutes brings a new twist, constantly rewarding and informing the attentive listener.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Bush v. Trump, life, & the sax

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.

A once-sunny Jeb Bush, bristling in the long shadow of Donald Trump (9/2/15, New York Times): I rarely use this space to post stories about politics, but in this case I made an exception.

How many think pieces and “hot takes” have been written about Donald Trump? None, I will argue, is as fascinating as Jonathan Martin’s study of the Presidential hopeful arguably most affected by Trump’s current dominance: Jeb Bush.

For everyone dismissing Trump’s candidacy, the fact remains that he has legitimately affected the Republican race for the past few months. He has obviously altered Jeb Bush’s approach, as Martin illustrates beautifully in this story for the New York Times.

People often wonder if campaign reporting fails to live up to its purpose. In this case, Martin’s article succeeds strictly because of time spent with the candidate, as he details numerous instances where Bush seems to deviate from his script and make an off-the-cuff remark about Trump.

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