nik wallenda

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Nik Wallenda, Boston, & an execution

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 Wal-Mart of the high wire (10/2/15, BuzzFeed): I continue to be impressed by BuzzFeed’s legitimate credibility as a destination for longform journalism.

I have mentioned their work before, and this latest feature is a worthy addition to their canon.

Steve Kandell, BuzzFeed’s news features director, produces a profile of the high-flying wire-walker Nik Wallenda, whose notoriety has become a source of contention within both his industry and his family. Wallenda continues the tradition of performers who may not be the best at their jobs but are the best at self-promotion.

Kandell perfectly weaves these stories of conflict with under-the-tightrope visuals and descriptions. BuzzFeed’s web editors succeed here as well, filling the story with dazzling images and videos of Wallenda’s high-wire feats.

Call it another win for an unlikely web site.


3 GREAT STORIES: Starring #Skywire, Stephen Colbert, & raw emotion

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.

I have a mentor who scoffs at the idea that certain stories are considered “emotional” while others are not.

“Every story is about emotion,” she says.

One of the toughest parts of my job on a daily basis is capturing raw emotions in a story. People behave differently when they know their actions are being recorded, especially but not necessarily by a camera (people modify their behavior in front of a writer with a pen and paper, as well).

This week, I use this space to celebrate three great stories from last week that gave people glimpses into raw emotion — three very different types of emotions.

Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda (6/23/13, Discovery Channel): A big part of me simply does not get the ultimate point of events like Skywire Live, other than as a chance to say to everyone, “Look at what we can do.”

(Thank you for indulging the Sports Night reference … my favorite unsung TV show of the 90’s.)

That said, when Nik Wallenda did his Skywire walk across the Grand Canyon, he instantly mesmerized more than a million people who tuned in to watch, be it on the air or online.

Part of the draw is, of course, the suspense of whether or not Wallenda would make it across. But that is only a fraction of the equation; after all, I think most people assumed deep down he would make it, or why would the Grand Canyon and the Discovery Channel put so much money and muscle behind it?

More than that, I think people wanted to see a seemingly ordinary person do an extraordinary feat.

During the event, my Twitter feed featured all sorts of comments about the event. Some folks marveled about Wallenda’s wardrobe, mainly that he wore blue jeans to conquer the Canyon. Others commented on the number of times Wallenda thanked Jesus during the proceedings. Still others loved the interplay between Wallenda and his dad.

Wallenda bared himself to the world, and in doing so — and by doing a remarkable stunt — he became an instant celebrity.