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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the rise of journalism podcasts

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 man inside: four months as a prison guard (6/25/16, Reveal): A few weeks ago, I posted an entry on this blog that recommended three podcasts from which any journalist would benefit.

I already feel like I left that list incomplete.

The recent podcast boom has brought an extraordinary amount of new audio series from reputable journalistic sources, including (and perhaps particularly) the Reveal podcast from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

After a friend recommended it to me, I pressed play on this episode, which profiles Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer as he goes undercover for four months as a private prison guard. (Bauer’s written piece for Mother Jones is also a riveting read.) I recommend listening to the episode uninterrupted, because once it begins, you will quickly be absorbed into the tremendous storytelling and horrifying statistics about the prevalence of private prisons in our country today.

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3 GREAT STORIES: The all-New York Times 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 isn’t easy to figure out which foods contain sugar (5/21/16, New York Times): I found myself taken this week by the New York Times.

I think it’s easy to overlook the consistently strong and thorough reporting provided by the third-largest newspaper in the country. I do not consider myself a loyal Times reader, but I regularly find an article or two every week that increases my knowledge or shifts my perspective on a given subject.

This past week, I read three.

In this example, Margot Sanger-Katz of the Times’ Upshot series discusses the new FDA nutrition labels and their increased emphasis on “added sugar”. She breaks down the many sneaky and unhealthy ingredients that often find their way into seemingly nutritious products, and she even provides two lists of ingredients that, in her words, “really just mean added sugar”. This is a deceptively simple presentation, providing insights and takeaways in a compact package about a dietary issue that affects all of us.

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Interns, Part 2 (or the time I almost became famous)

“CLASSIC!”

That was the inside joke that rang regularly through the WCBS-TV sports office.

The room looked like nothing I have seen since in local television news. It was a traditional edit bay surrounded by multiple TVs showing different events, but it also included three rows of stadium seating so that nearly a dozen staffers could watch at once.

We interns were relegated to the middle row. On a given night, we would monitor the major New York sporting events — which, during the summer, typically meant Yankees and Mets games — and log the highlights. We would then report back to that night’s anchor about which ones he should use during the 11 pm sportscast.

Occasionally that anchor was a New York broadcasting legend: Warner Wolf.

By 2001 Wolf had worked in broadcasting for 40 years. He had developed a renowned catch phrase: “Let’s go to the videotape!” As an intern, I marveled at his ability to go off-script for highlights; Wolf stiff-armed the TelePrompter and simply wrote a few words on a piece of paper to guide him through the show.

Wolf had also, by this stage, become one of the few remaining examples of a full-blown New Yorker on local New York news. He neither looked nor spoke like a modern assembly-line anchor; he wore a thick accent and a brash yet kind-hearted demeanor.  This showed up behind the scenes, too; Wolf did not say much but, when he did, always commanded the room. Every now and then, Wolf would ask one of us interns to run down to the cafeteria and get him a sandwich; he would always give us enough money for our meals, as well.

And he would always ask for the same thing:

“I want a tomato sandwich … with a slice of cheese … and a bag of Lay’s potato chips … CLASSIC.”

His voice would then rise comically:

“That’s CLASSIC. None of that sow-uh cream s*** … none of that baw-be-cue s*** … CLASSIC!”

Wolf would then leave the room, and the inside joke would begin. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the World Cup, the Awl, & DeAndre Jordan

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.

J.J. Redick on the DeAndre Jordan saga (7/10/15, The Lowe Post): Here is why I love Zach Lowe.

The biggest story in sports this week involved the out-of-season NBA: free agent DeAndre Jordan, after agreeing to leave the L.A. Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks, changing his mind and going back to Los Angeles to sign with the Clippers. The story was shrouded in secrecy, with even the best NBA reporters relying on off-the-record sources and anonymous information to provide the background of how it all happened.

And then there’s Lowe, who gets one of Jordan’s teammates to GO ON A PODCAST AND TALK ABOUT IT FOR 30 MINUTES. This interview is tremendous: Clippers guard J.J. Redick gives just about every detail one could want about how his team got Jordan to change his mind. Redick himself is a forthright interview, at times enthusiastic to give Lowe the play-by-play.

Again, this is why Lowe is such a prodigious reporter. Not only does he break down the game better than virtually anyone, he also makes the most of his connections. In this case, much like last week’s 1-on-1 with the newly minted coach of the NBA champs, Lowe lands an interview to delight any basketball fan.

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PODCAST EPISODE #28: Michael DelGiudice, photographer, WNBC-TV

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Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of weeks in a year.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of Super Bowls.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number in a famous Beatles song.

Michael DelGiudice, during his 30-year career in television, has won 65 regional Emmys.

The photographer has captured a slew of other awards as well, and he was just named this year’s NPPA Photographer of the Year for the East Top region — an extraordinary honor in what he calls “a dogfight” of a competition.

But what most impresses me about DelGiudice is not his award count but his location.

He has achieved this type of success, and preached the gospel of storytelling, in the largest market in the country: New York City.

The Big Apple has a reputation for wanting the hardest of news; its stations fly through their newscasts, rarely staying on one story for very long. But within those parameters, DelGiudice — along with the reporters who work alongside him — has developed his own reputation as a photographer who finds humanity in his subjects.

He joins me on Episode #28 of the Telling The Story podcast.

DelGiudice and I discuss his tried-and-true techniques, tips for younger journalists, and the ups and downs of working in a market that swarms with media. He is a New York native (it shows in his voice), and he has made a tremendous living in his home city.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the world’s most mysterious chicken dish

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 Search for General Tso (January 2015, Wicked Delicate Films): A new documentary, exploring the history behind one of the world’s most famous dishes, is playing in seven cities this week.

Luckily for me, one of those cities is Atlanta.

I had the pleasure of seeing The Search for General Tso — he of the famous General Tso’s Chicken — and I highly recommend it. The subject matter sounds whimsical at best, but it provides a stupendous launching pad for a 75-minute film that touches numerous fascinating topics.

Credit to filmmaker Ian Cheney for putting together an entertaining — even absorbing — documentary that has already dominated the awards circuit at various film festivals. And by the way, the movie is also available on demand through iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and other outlets.

So you can watch it anywhere … and you should.

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PODCAST EPISODE #24: Natalie Amrossi, @Misshattan

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New York can be a competitive place.

Just look at Instagram.

As of this writing, the hashtag #newyorkcity had been used on more than 4 million Instagram posts. Even the less obvious hashtag #newyorknewyork had been used 200,000 times.

New York City may be the most photographed city in the world.

And my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast may be its most popular Instagram photographer.

Natalie Amrossi is a freelance photographer who is better known by her Instagram name: Misshattan. She uses her account to showcase spectacular photos of the Big Apple, usually from an aerial or rooftop view. With barely a thousand posts under her online belt, Amrossi has already amassed more than 200,000 Instagram followers.

That accomplishment becomes even more impressive with the knowledge that Amrossi is not a full-time photographer … or, at least, she wasn’t until last November. She was holding down a corporate job when she decided, in part because of her Instagram success, to become a freelancer and make a living solely from her photos.

“It was definitely emotional the day I decided to leave my job,” Amrossi told me. “I haven’t looked back since. Whether I make it or I fail, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, I don’t want to look back and wonder.”

Amrossi is not a journalist by trade, but she is certainly a storyteller, and she makes for a fascinating interview. We discuss a variety of topics, including the paradox of showcasing her mural-worthy photos on the tiny screen of a phone.

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#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 12/15-12/19

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

I’m cheating again.

But I am too fond of the photos I just took to mind.

I spent much of last week in New York City, and I got the chance to visit some of the Big Apple’s biggest spots. Here are five that stood out; enjoy!

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Gmail, NY pizza, & the Trix bunny

Frivolity can be a beautiful thing.

And the Internet loves frivolity.

Think of how it has changed journalism and online content. Think of how many articles now are devoted to nostalgia, pop culture, and the highbrow interpretation of seemingly lowbrow material.

Storytellers occasionally get these stories right, and when they do, they succeed with either a detailed behind-the-scenes look, a thorough guide, or a scientific slant. (Sometimes they use a combination of all three.)

Here are three stories from last week that tackle such topics with unquestionable rigor:

How Gmail happened: the inside story of its launch 10 years ago (4/1/14, Time): Mark this one under “detailed behind-the-scenes look”.

And boy, is it detailed. Time writer Harry McCracken travels back a decade to when leaders at Google wanted to invest in an e-mail service.

That service, otherwise known as Gmail, changed our culture.

What’s more remarkable, it did so largely in the same ways its creators predicted.

McCracken shows a screengrab of Gmail at its inception, and it actually looks relatively similar to the product in 2014. More impressively, McCracken identifies the hurdles Google’s programmers faced in creating Gmail, and then he neatly explains how they solved those issues.

This is a long read but a great one.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring two tales of heartbreak and one of the World Series

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 most powerful stories I saw this week were also the most heartbreaking.

Some people have true difficulty reading tales of heartbreak; they struggle with the depressing content, particularly when that content does not include a call to action or a way to channel their anger or frustration.

I understand that completely, but I try to look at it differently. I try to appreciate these stories for their place in our wide world; I cannot necessarily do anything about them, but I can at least be informed and aware of them.

I have included two such stories this week, along with a far more frivolous essay about the World Series, for good measure …

Hidden city (10/21/13, New Yorker): Even in terms of difficult stories, this one is a struggle.

New Yorker writer Ian Frazier puts together nearly 10,000 words about the rising number of homeless in the Big Apple. I — like many, I’m sure, who read this piece — was stunned by that fact. I grew up in the shadow of New York City and still visit it 3-4 times a year. I see fewer traces of homelessness every time I go, but obviously I suffer from the same bias as many quoted in Frazier’s story.

I take this problem personally, having once chronicled my own by-choice 24-hour stay at an Atlanta homeless facility. Frazier tells the story without much dressing or fanfare; he simply tells it as it is, which is plenty horrifying already.

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