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PODCAST EPISODE #38: Chris Vanderveen, reporter, KUSA-TV

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Sometimes we forget the cold hard potential of what we can accomplish in journalism.

Chris Vanderveen is a good reminder.

(As evidenced from his photo above with the Most Interesting Man in the World, he also knows how to keep good company.)

After more than a decade as an award-winning general assignment reporter for KUSA-TV in Denver, Vanderveen applied for a job within his station to join the investigative team. He got it, and he has been throwing journalistic haymakers ever since.

Specifically, Vanderveen has produced stories and led movements that have changed laws.

He brings a storyteller’s sensibility to the often tough-to-digest world of investigative journalism. I-Team stories tend to come across as an overload of numbers and data, except when in the hands of a reporter who can give viewers a reason to care.

Vanderveen is my guest on this episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

He is also one of the many tremendous speakers at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held June 10th and 11th in Atlanta. 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. Vanderveen has the hardware to back up his credentials, including recently being named a finalist for NPPA Reporter of the Year.

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 look into the power of investigative journalism, with great tips on how to do it right.

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PODCAST EPISODE #37: Jed Gamber, WBFF-TV & Catherine Steward, WTVF-TV

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Awards season is underway in local TV news.

Over the next few months, some of the most prestigious associations in journalism will present lists of winners and honor some of the best reporters and photojournalists in the field.

Photojournalists Jed Gamber and Catherine Steward are off to a great start.

This past week, Gamber and Steward each received one of the highest honors in the craft: being named NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year. Gamber captured the crown for the East region for his work at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, while Steward topped the Central region after a stellar year with WTVF-TV in Nashville. The award they won prizes consistency and versatility and honors an entire year’s worth of powerful storytelling.

Watch their work, and you will quickly see why: these two photojournalists care about awards far less than they care about their audience.

Gamber and Steward are my guests of this episode of the Telling the Story podcast.

They discuss questions of technique, teamwork, and communication, but they speak with such obvious and heartfelt passion. They so clearly believe in the power of storytelling to reach an audience, and they bring that purpose into their work. Any storyteller can learn from what these two have to say.

They are also among the star-studded line-up of speakers at this year’s NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, being held June 10th and 11th in Atlanta. 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 — including the two guests on this episode.

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 the discussion of craft with two extremely talented — and newly honored — TV news photojournalists.

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PODCAST EPISODE #33: Katie Stern, photographer, KOMO-TV

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If you follow the Telling The Story podcast, you have heard several guests describe the process of covering a huge story.

But I have never interviewed a guest who had to cover such a story while dealing with the massive personal tragedy it brought.

Everyone at KOMO-TV went through it last March, when the station’s helicopter crashed in downtown Seattle, killing photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner. The journalists and employees in the KOMO newsroom suddenly needed to bring the news of a major story while processing their own emotions.

Katie Stern had worked at KOMO for nearly a decade when the crash occurred. She sprung into action and spent the morning as the roving photographer, collecting B-roll and gathering interviews around the scene; then she set up for live shots with reporter Denise Whitaker. All the while, she fought back tears and, she says, at one point could not keep a steady shot because her hands were trembling.

Stern is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I received the immense privilege of listening to Stern last month when she spoke at the NPPA Northwest Storytelling Workshop. She shared the stage with Bill Strothman’s son, Dan, and the duo reflected upon the experience with composure and eloquence. Their presentation kept the audience silent and attentive; we were all confronted with the potential of finding ourselves in a similar scenario.

But regardless if any of us ever cover a personal tragedy, journalists everywhere can take major lessons from Stern on how to cover tragedies in general.

“I think that talking about trauma and journalism — and how the two are forever intertwined — is so important,” Stern said on the podcast. “Slowly we’re starting to talk about it more. I think there’s a stigma that comes with showing any kind of emotion as a journalist, and I’m really hoping we can wash that away.”

I completely agree.

I greatly appreciate Stern’s time and appearance on the Telling The Story podcast, and I hope you find her words meaningful and instructive.

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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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Ladies and gentlemen, some changes — and exciting news!

You have probably noticed: the site looks a bit different.

After taking a few weeks off for an international vacation (more on that in the next few weeks), I decided to shake up the appearance of the Telling The Story blog. As much as I enjoyed the previous look, I wanted to adopt a new presentation that offered more visible links and a more modern feel. I hope you like the changes.

You will notice, on the right sidebar, a group of essential entries that showcase, I believe, my best work from the first two years of the site. Below that is a complete list of podcasts, from #1 with WXIA-TV reporter Jon Shirek to #27 with WFAA-TV reporter Mike Castellucci. I look forward to adding to this list and welcome any suggestions for potential storytellers to interview.

I also have an exciting announcement: one of my stories has received a national award! I found out this weekend that my story about Bryant Collins, the Madison County, Ga. man who found a baby crawling on the side of the highway, was named the NPPA’s story of the year for Solo Video Journalist General News. This piece went all kinds of viral last June, and I am thrilled that it has received such strong recognition. As my friend (and podcast interviewee) John Kirtley said to me, “The NPPA is THE standard for storytelling, and this is on the national level,” so I am honored.

In the meantime, I will return with new entries next week and look forward to your feedback. Thanks for your readership, and enjoy the new site!

PODCAST EPISODE #25: John Kirtley, photographer, WLOS-TV

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Roughly seven minutes into this episode of the Telling The Story podcast, guest John Kirtley said the following:

“No one said this was easy. If it was easy, the world of storytelling wouldn’t be such a unique thing.”

During an already honest interview, this was a particularly honest moment. So often in this business, we try to maintain an optimistic, even idealistic, point of view. But Kirtley made his opinion perfectly clear: this job is difficult.

And to do it well, and to do it regularly? Even tougher.

“It’s practice; you know that. You gotta work on improving a little detail each time, and eventually you’re going to get to the point where it all adds up.”

Kirtley has seen things add up. He has worked in numerous cities in his ten-year career, but he has found a home in Asheville, N.C., where he has now become the assistant chief photographer at WLOS-TV. He has also claimed seven regional Emmy awards.

He joins me for Episode #25 of the Telling The Story podcast.

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My favorite posts of 2014: A look back

I am spending the next few weeks looking back at 2014, recapping the best stories I watched or read while also reflecting on my favorite blog posts of the year.

For whatever reason, I have had a lot to write about.

I remember feeling somewhat nervous as I began my second year of writing for the Telling The Story blog. Would I start to run thin on topics? Would I lose the momentum I had developed last year?

Far from it.

Between my Olympics journey and several other professional successes, I found plenty of blogging inspiration during 2014.

Here are my five favorite entries from the past year, with excerpts; thank you all for reading:

An outstanding NPPA honor, and a prideful achievement (3/26/14): At the moment when I received one of the greatest honors of my career, I could not have felt less prestigious.

I was not dressed in my black-tie finest, attending some lavish awards banquet, hoping to walk up on a stage and give an acceptance speech. I was not surrounded by my colleagues, loved ones, and journalists from all over.

I was sitting alone on my couch, in my gym clothes, staring at a laptop.

And that was completely, absolutely, undoubtedly fine.

The TV branch of the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, held its annual awards show Monday night. The association named its photographers and stations of the year for each of its three regions. It also named its national Solo Video Journalist of the Year, in a category full of talented one-person bands who shoot and edit their own reports.

I am thrilled to announce that I was named 2013’s Solo Video Journalist of the Year. (more…)

“Embrace your autonomy”: advice and a tip sheet for MMJs

I always appreciate the chance to speak with storytellers about this wild profession of ours.

In the past few years, I have received several opportunities to talk at conferences, and I particularly relish those moments. I believe in giving back as a general philosophy, but even more so when I can reach those in my profession who are eager to improve and learn.

And no topic delights me more than backpack journalism.

I have been a one-man band my entire career, starting when, at 22 years old, my first boss turned me into a one-man sports department. I have worked at several stations in numerous roles but have always been labeled a “multimedia journalist”, or MMJ. This is because, for the most part, I do it all — I shoot, write, and edit nearly every story I produce. This past year I was named the NPPA Solo Video Journalist of the Year, and last week I was asked by NPPA Quarterly Contest chair John Thain to reflect on the stories that got me there.

Watch it below (but try to ignore the choppy video):

As I spoke with John during that interview, I was reminded of how my “do-it-all” ability has truly catalyzed my career. At every stop, my versatility has made me valuable. And when I look around at other MMJs who have had major success in this business, I notice the same thing:

Most of them have embraced their autonomy.

When I get the chance to speak to journalists, particularly MMJs, I always send that message. (more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #19: Ted Land, reporter, KING-TV

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When I started in broadcast journalism, I encountered a very vocal school of thought from more experienced colleagues regarding backpack journalists — or, more simply, reporters who shoot and edit their own stories.

I was told repeatedly that the rise of backpack journalism would (A) be a passing fad in larger markets and (B) bring down the quality level of TV news as a whole because (C) backpack journalists could never do as good a job as two- or three-person crews.

More than a decade later, all three of those predictions have proven spectacularly wrong.

For starters, more and more large-market stations are making room for reporters who do it all. Cost is one reason, obviously; one employee is cheaper than two. But stations can get away with that now because the overall quality of backpack journalism has increased dramatically over the last few years. Check out this winter’s award-winning stories in the NPPA’s quarterly solo video competition. They are strong pieces done by more than a dozen backpack journalists.

And at the top of the ladder, the best backpack journalists can produce work every bit as good as that of larger crews.

The latest example? Ted Land.

This month he begins his new job at the prestigious KING-TV in Seattle. But last month, he received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for writing in small-market TV, all thanks to stories he produced at WSBT-TV in South Bend — by himself.

Let me elaborate. The “small-market TV” category covers reporters, both solo and traditional, who work in any television market outside the top 50. In the category of writing, a backpack journalist bested an entire nation of competition.

Land is my latest guest on the Telling The Story podcast. (more…)

A video journalism how-to guide, from KUSA-TV’s Michael Driver

Consider this a cheat sheet.

Last week’s podcast with KUSA-TV photojournalist Michael Driver was one of the most-downloaded Telling The Story podcasts to date.

But, as I noted then, Driver was almost too good a guest.

He offered so much advice in such a short period of time, and while we were recording the interview, I kept thinking I could better serve photojournalists — heck, better serve myself — by transcribing all of Driver’s terrific tidbits.

I always enjoy the discussion of journalism, and I have used this blog several times to focus specifically on photojournalism. Check out my spotlight on the best NPPA video stories from 2012 or my podcast with KDVR-TV photographer Anne Herbst. Great photojournalism is an art that often must be sustained and passed down by, not station managers or other journalists, but the artists themselves.

Here is a thorough collection of important advice from Driver, one of the top photojournalists in the country.

BEFORE YOU SHOOT:

Back-time your day: “You need to make sure you know how much time you’re going to have to do this stuff. Give yourself enough time to edit and do the story properly. You have to have a plan in place. If you go in like, ‘We’ll see what happens,’ you’re going to run out of time. We work in a business where deadlines are our enemy. You have to make sure you get everything you can in the quickest amount of time, and then give yourself enough time to work on it.”

Work with your reporter (if you have one): “We’re constantly communicating, constantly talking about what we’re going to do. Talk to your reporter. When you get out to a scene, you’re not going to know exactly what it is. It’s constantly talking about, ‘What elements do we need? What are the visuals we need to tell this story?'”

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