kevin sullivan

5 GREAT STORIES: The all-Boyd Huppert 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.

It’s time to pay tribute to a legend.

This past Saturday, KARE-TV feature reporter Boyd Huppert received the coveted Silver Circle award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The honor often reflects longevity — a lifetime achievement award, if you will.

But few journalists have reached Huppert’s level of achievements.

In fact, that same night, Huppert won his 100th regional Emmy award — one of 11 he received for 2016.

In addition to his Emmys, Huppert has won 14 national Edward R. Murrow awards and three Sigma Delta Chi awards; he has received, on seven occasions, the NPPA’s Photojournalism Award for Reporting. Beyond that, Huppert has inspired thousands of journalists through both his teaching and his example, and he has touched millions with his heart-warming stories.

A far less prestigious achievement? He is by far the most mentioned reporter on this blog. In nearly four years, I have tagged Huppert in 23 posts — the majority of which have come as shout-outs for his work in this “3 Great Stories” segment.

(Huppert also graced my podcast for our 40th episode; it’s a terrific listen.)

To that end, I have chosen to use this week’s “3 Great Stories” as an all-time Greatest Hits list of my favorite Huppert games. (“All-time”, in this case, refers to the last four years in which I have written this blog.) I could not narrow the list to three, so here are five great Boyd Huppert stories, along with what I wrote about them at the time, with minor edits for clarity:

Dying man finds miracle in abandoned church (11/18/12, KARE-TV): I can’t think of one thing that stands out to me about this story.

Simply put, everything stands out.

Few in my profession would argue that Huppert and photographer Jonathan Malat are as good as it gets in terms of long-form, human-interest storytelling. I regularly find myself blown away by their work, and I could not stop smiling over this one. This is beginning-to-end perfect: a touching story that takes its time but does not waste a moment.

It is the kind of story that makes me want to be a better journalist.

I could probably list five lessons I learned from this story alone, but above all I was reminded of the importance of continually finding stories — and storytellers — who inspire you. I have no doubt I will improve because, when I watch pieces like this, I can see the possible results of said improvement.

(NOTE: The original link from KARE-TV no longer works, so I have posted the YouTube video from a different station that ran the story. Also, Huppert followed up this year with the story’s main subject, now facing a new fight.)

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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 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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