olympics

Looking back: The most popular posts of 2016

With the year wrapping up — and with me out of town this week on vacation — I made an executive decision regarding the blog:

It’s time for a compilation list.

I have experienced and written about quite a bit this year, and I have been heartened by the massive response I have received from people within the journalism community. I started this blog four years ago with the intent of helping storytellers and journalists improve at their craft. I hope entries like these have provided some guidance for doing that, through either my personal examples or those of others.

Here are my five most popular posts of 2016, along with an excerpt:

5) Remembering Clem Ferguson, the 96-year-old flight attendant (4/27/16)This was one of the more touching stories I got to tell this year. Clem Ferguson made a huge impression in a short amount of time.

Most television news reporters try to avoid clichés, but we tend to stumble upon one when people ask what we love most about our jobs.

The recurring answer? “Meeting people and telling their stories.”

I can’t deny it. I love that part of my job. Nearly every day involves meeting someone new; nearly every meeting involves learning something new. I continuously meet people who make me think, laugh, smile, and even cry.

And on the rare occasion, I get to meet someone like Clem Ferguson.

This past April Fool’s Day, I was assigned to tell Clem’s story, and it was a great one. Clem, I was told, was a lifetime Georgian who had finally received the chance, after 96 years, to live her childhood dream.

That dream? She had always wanted to become a flight attendant.

4) 5 Great Stories: the all-Boyd Huppert edition (10/31/16)This post was so popular — and received enough comments asking for more Huppert classics — that it was immediately followed by a “5 More Great Stories” edition.

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.

3) My Olympics Journey: I tried a coxinha, and Brazilian Twitter went wild (8/3/16)I could never have anticipated this being the 3rd most popular post of 2016. But I could never have anticipated that a simple Tweet would become such a joyous moment.

I can barely believe it, but I have already been in Brazil for nearly a week. In that time, I have done multiple reports and made numerous posts to Facebook and Twitter, cataloging some of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic sights and elaborate Olympic venues.

But nothing has gained as much attention as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about a Brazilian culinary staple.

On Wednesday, a large group of us went on a day-long tour of the city, and midway through we stopped at the famous Selaron Steps. As we wrapped up and awaited our buses, one of my colleagues began talking with a Rio resident and pointed at an item in her hand from a street vendor.

It was a coxinha.

I had no idea what a coxinha was, but my colleague described it as a chicken hush puppy. Then she started passing it around.

I had to try … and I’m glad it did, because it was delicious. Within minutes, I posted the proof of my culinary victory to Twitter. It received a few likes and re-Tweets but quickly sank into the ether, like nearly every other Tweet, never to surface again.

Except it did.

2) Logan lives on: the triumph of a heart-warming story (9/7/16): This entry is a lesson in so many things, from the importance of pushing past first impressions to the power of social media.

I just spent most of August covering an event that captivates the world. I worked at the 2016 Summer Olympics for three weeks, produced 36 packages, made dozens of social media posts, and wrote 13 entries for this blog. Many of those packages, posts, and entries spread a great distance and performed very well both on-air and online.

But my most-read blog post from last month? It had nothing to do with the Olympics. It wasn’t in any way new; I had written it ten months earlier. And it was read nine times as much as the second-most popular post.

It was about a young man who has now touched hearts as worldwide as the Olympics.

It was about Logan.

If you have not heard or seen the story yet, let me catch you up. Logan Pickett is a teenager from Ringgold, Ga. who was diagnosed at a young age with autism. He struggles in social situations and, for a long time, had difficulty getting involved at his school. But his mother got him involved as a manager for the middle school football team, and he continued doing it into high school.

Logan absolutely awakened. He became a force on the Heritage High School sidelines, exhorting the crowd to, as he says, “Let me hear you!” But he never got to play … until last fall, when Logan’s coach conspired with an opposing coach one week to let Logan suit up, take a handoff, and score a touchdown.

1) Introducing The Solo Video Journalist, a how-to guide for aspiring MMJs (11/16/16)I put an enormous amount of effort into The Solo Video Journalist, a book I wrote and had published this year. I have been so gratified by the positive reaction from those in the storytelling community.

I am a television news reporter for the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Ga., the 10th largest TV market in the country. But I am also my own photographer, shooting and editing the video that becomes my pre-produced reports. From the start of my day to the finish, I am almost always on my own.

And I represent a growing reality in TV news.

The term “multimedia journalist” gets thrown around in the news business, but in television it has a clear meaning. It refers to a journalist who produces a report from start to finish, combining the jobs of a traditional reporter (researching, interviewing, writing) with those of a traditional photographer (shooting, editing). We now occupy a substantial part of TV newsrooms; per the latest survey, roughly nine of every ten local network affiliates use them in some capacity. When aspiring television journalists go to college, they are warned they will almost certainly start their careers – and likely spend a good chunk of them – as one-woman and one-man bands.

Yet no book exists that offers a comprehensive overview of what the job entails, with the insights and authorship of journalists working in the business.

So I wrote one.

I am proud and excited to announce the release of The Solo Video Journalist, available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is a how-to guide for a position in TV news that is long overdue for such analysis: the multimedia journalist, or MMJ.

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The Solo Video Journalist is available for purchase. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

PODCAST EPISODE #43: Cheryl Preheim, morning anchor, KUSA-TV

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I may have said this a time or two in the past month:

The Olympics are an extraordinary assignment.

I have had the privilege of covering the event three times, most recently this August in Rio de Janeiro. I find the assignment tests me in a variety of ways, both professionally and personally, and provides both unique challenges and wonderful memories.

I have not been alone. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of journalists descend upon the Olympics every two years, and they are all tasked with providing a window for their readers and viewers that enables a greater connection to both the Games and their host city.

I saw few handle this as deftly as the team at KUSA-TV in Denver. The NBC affiliate (and TEGNA sister station) comes equipped with a team of journalists who consistently make the extra push to tell the best story for their audience.

One of those journalists, morning anchor Cheryl Preheim, is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I got to know Preheim at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and worked with her again in Rio. In both cases I marveled at her abilities as a storyteller and her disposition as a person. Through a grueling 25 days, she always seemed to find the energy and optimism while putting together great work for her viewers.

Listen to this podcast, and you’ll get a window into what makes Preheim such a strong storyteller — and what makes the Olympics such a daunting yet rewarding assignment.

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MY OLYMPIC JOURNEY: 10 observations from 10 days in Rio

The Olympics have just begun, but I am nearing my halfway point.

Tuesday marks the tenth day since I touched down in Rio. In that time I have worked for nearly 150 hours and slept for maybe 50. I have collected some pins, held a silver medal, and watched one of the most exciting sporting events I can remember seeing live.

In short, the assignment has been extraordinary in just about every way imaginable.

I always aim during these trips, as with any story, to take you with me as much as possible. I try to provide, through my stories, social media posts, and blog entries, an understanding and perspective of what I see on the ground.

With that in mind, I offer 10 observations from my first ten days at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro:

1. Rio is as picturesque as we hear. Put the Olympics aside for a second. As a vacation destination, Rio is pretty impressive. Between the beach, the mountains, the sights, and the food, a tourist can definitely find a week’s worth of activity in this vibrant city.

2. Brazilian food, when I get to eat it, is outstanding. For the most, I eat whatever is served in our workspace at the NBC commissary. But every so often, I get to dine at a legit Brazilian restaurant. Whenever I do, I love what I eat.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Rio is stunning, on the surface

There’s a feeling that hits me every time I travel that reminds me why I travel.

It happens early in the trip, usually within a few hours of landing at the airport.

You see, I love the jolt I receive when I first click “BOOK” on a flight to an uncharted destination. I swell with anticipation and wish I could pack my bags and depart that minute. But then I return to real life, focus on my many responsibilities at home, and struggle to regenerate that jolt of excitement. During the days leading up to a vacation, I rarely get the chance to think about it because I must complete a bunch of last-minute errands. Even when I get on the plane and land in a new city, I feel eager but also sluggish from the long flight.

Then I escape the airport and head to wherever I’m going, and soon I arrive upon some spot — a vista, building, monument, or special site – that freezes me with its power and beauty. I stop mid-conversation or mid-thought to savor the moment, and I instantly think (sometimes out loud): “Wow … this is cool. This is why I wanted to come here.”

It happened again Sunday, roughly two hours into my current travel experience: a three-week trip to cover the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Ready for Rio, preparing for the grind

Eight years ago this week, I received my first opportunity to cover a major national event … and thus my first experience with, for an extended period of time, working to the limit.

I flew to Denver to report from the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the eventual nomination of our current president, Barack Obama. I operated by myself in a sea of tens of thousands, lugged 50 pounds of equipment to and from my workspace each day, turned roughly a dozen stories, and used any brief window of free time to gobble down enough food to sustain me for the next few hours.

Exhausting, right? Not enjoyable at all, right?

And yet, when I returned home, I wrote this — in all sincerity — to my boss:

This was one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life. I ended up working some 60 hours in four days in Denver, and it was partly because I kept looking for new things to cover, because I didn’t want to waste a minute of the experience.

Yup. When the work is that riveting, I actually crave it. And as I stare into my immediate future, I spy another extended brush with extended hours:

On Saturday I head to Rio de Janeiro to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Bill Cosby, Beijing, & the Vikings

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.

“I’m no longer afraid”: 35 women tell their stories about being assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the culture that wouldn’t listen (7/26/15, New York Magazine): Strength in numbers has rarely seemed so personal.

This piece, written by Noreen Malone of New York Magazine with a portfolio by Amanda Demme, may go down as the definitive story about the many accusations of rape facing comedian Bill Cosby. At the very least, it became a viral sensation this past week for its sheer volume: 35 Cosby accusers stand both together and individually, offering their personal recollections while painting a brutal picture of the once-beloved actor.

Two facets of this story stand out. First, the research: one does not simply get 35 women to come forward publicly about this kind of subject. This undoubtedly required time, effort, and trust, which all show in the resulting piece.

But I also admire the thought that went into how the publication would present this. Everything is done both powerfully and tastefully, right down to the cover photo: the 35 accusers all sit on individual chairs, with an empty seat at the end. Malone, meanwhile, provides poignant context throughout her article, which is a difficult but important read.

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PODCAST EPISODE #32: “Best Of”, Covering the Big Stories

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A few weeks ago I rounded up some of my favorite podcasts that surrounded a specific theme: why we act the way to do as recipients of storytelling.

This week, I continue the “Best Of” tradition with a different topic: how reporters handle the tasks of covering giant stories.

These are not the stories that lead the newscast one night and disappear the next. These are the stories that carry on for days and weeks, often commanding national attention (and the national media that comes with that).

Such brings us to Episode #32 of the Telling The Story podcast: a “Best Of” edition on covering the big stories.

You’ll hear snippets from previous episodes with the following guests:

Dave Schwartz, sports anchor at KARE-TV in Minneapolis, on heading to Russia to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics (5:30-10:18): “I don’t think you could ever be prepared until you get into the situation and have to do it … I was prepared that it was going to be difficult, but I don’t think anyone could have made me feel better about the security until we were down on the ground.”

Claudine Ewing, anchor and reporter at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, on handling the 2014 “Snowvember” storm that blanketed parts of the city (7:45-11:05): “A storm can really, really change lives for people, and then as reporters we have to be sensitive and then remember: those are also stories that can told, too.”

Kathleen Cairns, reporter at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, on covering the death of Freddie Gray and the protests and riots that followed (4:55-9:00): “As journalists, it doesn’t matter that your shift ended. You keep going. If it’s your day off, and you hear of something big, you jump in the car and go. There are some people who have that and some people who don’t.”

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My favorite posts of 2014: The Olympics experience

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.

A cool thing happened last week:

I posted my 200th entry to the Telling The Story blog.

I continue to truly enjoy the experience of writing a blog, hosting a podcast, and communicating with storytellers and journalists worldwide. This platform has allowed me to share my own experiences in the field and provide a window into my day-to-day life.

No experience this year stood out quite like my month at the Olympics.

I flew to Russia on February 1st and didn’t get back to America until the 26th. During that time, in addition to my primary duties reporting for my TV station and others, I wrote 15 blog entries that saw significant traffic.

Here are my five favorites, with excerpts from each:

Arriving in Sochi, awaiting sleep (2/3/14): 3:34 AM.

The clock on my computer is staring back at me, screaming, “GO TO BED!” in its non-threatening, tiny white font.

And yet, I am nowhere near tired.

Welcome to the road-trip life, nine time zones away.

I have officially arrived in Sochi, Russia, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. This is a truly exciting opportunity, one that I cannot wait to tackle.

But first, somehow, I have to get my body right. (more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #14: Dave Schwartz, sports anchor, KARE-TV

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“What is it like to cover the Olympics?”

I have heard this question from virtually everyone I know since I came back from Russia three weeks ago.

But before I answer, I generally need to ask a question of my own:

“Which part?”

Reporting from the Olympics combines an array of unique experiences for any journalist. On the list:

  • covering a massive international event
  • corresponding from a foreign country
  • working extremely long hours, with zero days off, for nearly a month

In the case of the 2014 Winter Olympics, you can throw a few more items onto the list, such as concerns about security and privacy in what many consider a hostile country.

I documented my experiences through my numerous on-air stories as well as fifteen blog entries from Russia. But I promised I would use this space, soon after I returned, to showcase the viewpoint of someone else.

Enter Dave Schwartz.

The sports anchor and reporter for KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul worked several seats down from me in Sochi, but in some ways he experienced the Winter Games far differently. He covered numerous local athletes and events, where I typically focused on the Olympic atmosphere. He worked with a partner from his station, while I mostly worked by myself.

And on a personal level, Schwartz spent three weeks in Sochi, ten time zones away from his wife and kids.

Schwartz joined me on the latest episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Every Sochi entry

As I said in last week’s Olympics wrap entry, I am taking the week off.

But I will leave this parting post.

In three weeks, I wrote 15 posts for the Telling The Story blog. They have tackled topics both light and heavy and, I hope, provided a deep look behind the scenes at Olympic life for a reporter.

In case you missed one, here is the list of all my entries from Sochi:

Mon. 2/3 — Arriving in Sochi, awaiting sleep: At 3:34 AM, the night upon my arrival in Sochi, I penned this post about the anticipation for my first day of Olympic work … and the insomnia that came with it.

Tue. 2/4 — Checking out Sochi’s coastal cluster: The sun shone down on Sochi’s Olympic Park, and suddenly everything made sense.

Wed. 2/5 — A look at Sochi’s mountain cluster: Olympic organizers built the Rosa Khutor alpine resort from nothing … and did a great job.

Thu. 2/6 — Culture shock? What culture shock?: When I got the call to go to Russia for the Olympics, I imagined numerous opportunities to scratch my authenticity itch. After half a week, I was still itching.

Fri. 2/7 — Ten observations from the first five days: With one week (sort of) in the books, I offered my thoughts on the sights, weather, and experiences so far in Sochi.

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