podcast preview

PODCAST PREVIEW: American Promise filmmakers: “You lose audiences” when you preach

Imagine you are a filmmaker and documentarian who aims to make pictures with powerful themes.

Imagine you are also a parent with strong views about education, and you are a person of color with even stronger views about how race plays a giant role in education.

Imagine you decide to make a documentary that explores this topic.

Imagine you do so by putting a microphone on your son, as well as his best friend, and following the two boys through their schooling … for 13 years.

Imagine you finish this task by receiving various grants throughout the year and launching a successful Kickstarter campaign to pay for an editor and original score composer.

After all that, imagine finally sitting down to edit the documentary — this collage of experiences that are both personal and powerful, and from which you have developed major conclusions about life, race, and parenting — and having to keep so much to yourself.

Such was the challenge for Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, the parents and filmmakers behind American Promise. The documentary is currently in select theaters in 35 cities, and it will air as part of PBS’s POV series in February 2014.

In the film, Brewster and Stephenson follow their son Idris and his best friend Seun from kindergarten to graduation. The young boys start their educational experiences at prestigious (and mostly white) collegiate prep school Dalton on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Only one completes his education at Dalton; the parallels between Idris and Seun as they grow are simply fascinating.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Alexa Keefe: Photography “speaks to how visual we are”

Take a look at this study, which came out last month.

According to Ipsos, when Internet users (read: nearly all of us) share content online, more often than not, they share photos.

In fact, 43% of said users have shared a photo on social media. This is 17% higher than how many users have used social media to share an opinion, status update, or link to an article.

Photography is more ubiquitous than ever, and it has really only become that way within the last decade. Digital cameras, camera-phones, and social media have all fueled the movement.

So, with photos all around us, where does that leave the truly great ones?

That is what I asked Alexa Keefe, a photography producer for National Geographic and this week’s guest on the Telling The Story podcast.

Keefe curates the famous magazine’s daily web series, “Photo of the Day”. She delves through thousands of photos to find the 30 or so that fill up a given month, and she often chooses the most exquisite ones around.

But, you may be surprised to hear, even a photo purist like Keefe can respect the rise and current glut of amateur photos.

“I think it really just speaks to how visual we are, just looking at a picture …” Keefe says. “I think that’s been the amazing thing about digital photography.”

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Rachel Hamburg: “You have to be a hustler” as a young journalist

My favorite part of the Telling The Story podcast is the final part.

This is where my guest, young or old, offers advice and insight for young journalists entering the field.

At age 32 I consider myself somewhat in the middle — still (I hope) on the younger half of my career, but definitely far beyond the inexperienced journalist I was in college. As a result, I always enjoy the “time capsule” lessons my guests hope to impart on those who are just beginning their careers.

In this case, my guest actually is a young journalist.

Rachel Hamburg is 25 years old and barely two years removed by Stanford University. She may also wince at the idea of being called a journalist in the traditional sense; she participates in journalism, and storytelling, on very innovative and abstract levels. Currently she works as the managing editor of the Stanford Storytelling Project, a thorough and multi-platform college storytelling program in which, among other things, students produce an hour-long radio show and podcast called “State of the Human”.

The podcast is extremely impressive: almost like a college-level “This American Life”, filled with youthful sincerity and detailed attention to the individuals interviewed by the students.

I enjoyed my entire interview with Hamburg, but I specifically appreciated our back-and-forth at the end, where we reached the section about advice. She spoke about the challenges of entering this industry — and the need to which, as a young journalist, “you have to be a hustler.”

“You just have to kind of make it work these days,” she said, “and I don’t know if that’s going to change. But I still think it’s very possible — and I think there are lots of ways for it to be possible, thanks to crowd-funding and stuff like that.”

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Tomas Rios: Hot takes are “the most ubiquitous form of sportswriting”

This episode of the Telling The Story podcast requires a bit of reading in advance.

Several weeks ago, a freelance sportswriter named Tomas Rios — who generally writes about MMA, UFC, and combat sports — unveiled a piece for Pacific Standard magazine called “A Brief History of Bad Sports Writing”.

Check it out.

In the article, Rios essentially takes several legends of sportswriting history to task, criticizing the early 20th-century likes of Grantland Rice for deifying athletes and the mid-century likes of Dick Young for holding athletes to unfairly high standards.

How have those legends affected today’s sportswriting? Says Rios, it has plagued the medium with a disease called the “hot take” — namely based on the judging and moralizing of athletes’ off-the-field decisions.

“What you end up with now in sportswriting is,” Rios says, “because writers have seen that it will land you that feature columnist’s spot, they start to mimic it. And all of a sudden it’s become the most ubiquitous form of sportswriting.”

I invited Rios to be my guest on the podcast this week because I found his article both thorough and passionate; he provided well-thought analysis in a genre that often lacks it. I figured I would bring him on for an even deeper conversation.

Rios did not disappoint.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Jeff Reid: “This is one of my finest hours”

A week ago, I spoke of my pride for taking part in “50 Years Of Change”, an hour-long documentary about the Civil Rights events of 1963. It premiered last week to great acclaim from viewers and local leaders.

Now, allow me to introduce you to the man behind it.

Jeff Reid has been a co-worker of mine at WXIA-TV in Atlanta for more than a year; he joined us after spending 15 years at CNN, spearheading their documentary department and producing the much-discussed “Black in America”. He manages our enterprise content, meaning he oversees the production of long-form stories and investigations.

His other big mission? Get a few documentaries under our belts — and make them great.

In the recent history at our station, we had done the occasional single-topic newscast and even a documentary or two, but we had not tackled a topic as heavy as the Civil Rights movement — and we certainly had not filled an hour doing so — until “50 years Of Change”. For his part, Reid had never produced a documentary with so little time and staff; he spearheaded this one with a team of 8-10 people in barely a month.

Reid discusses the process with me on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Erin Brethauer: “Instagram really refreshed the way I was shooting”

True story: Erin Brethauer squeezed in our podcast between a vacation on the beach and an interview with the BBC.

I was surprised when she told me this, but I should not have been.

In the eight months I have known Brethauer, she has always impressed me with her willingness and enthusiasm to take on any challenge. The multimedia editor and staff photographer for the Asheville Citizen-Times, she hit the road with our Gannett Turbovideo squad despite having less than a week’s notice. Through her young career, she has excelled at photography with a variety of cameras, from the traditional to the phone-based.

And her latest achievement?

For one week this month, Brethauer ran the Instagram account for the New Yorker, the prestigious magazine with more than 82,000 Instagram followers.

This week, Brethauer joins me for Episode #7 of the Telling The Story podcast. We discuss the future of photography, her work with the New Yorker, and which cameras are best for which situations.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Roman Mars: “I think of Jon Stewart as a model host”

If you are a young journalist or storyteller, looking for a career path to emulate, Roman Mars likely is not your guy.

In fact, his path to success — and he has had enormous success in recent years — has been quite rare.

Rare is the person who can study science in college and spend years clawing his way into documentaries and public radio while holding down odd jobs to make money.

Rare is the person who become an independent storytelling entity as a podcaster … and raise gobs of money from fans to expand his vision.

And rare is the person who can turn an upstart radio segment about design and architecture into one of the most popular, respected podcasts on the planet.

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PODCAST EPISODE #5: Andrew Carroll, author, “Here Is Where”

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To this point, the Telling The Story podcast has focused on short-form storytellers.

I have interviewed a multimedia journalist, a former sports anchor, a television photographer, and a newspaper photographer. Each person produces his or her work quickly, usually on deadline, in the often ephemeral format of daily media.

Not this guest.

Andrew Carroll joins me on the fifth episode of the Telling The Story podcast. He is a two-time New York Times best-selling author who has just released a mammoth, 450-page tome called Here Is Where, which tells a giant handful of forgotten stories from America’s history. In researching and putting together this book, Carroll has produced a phenomenal piece of storytelling.

I wrote about Here Is Where several weeks ago in a book review that focused both on Carroll’s storytelling and his themes. The book left me spellbound by its conclusions about the role of history in present society.

Here is what I wrote at the time:

Here Is Where is absolutely worth a read. It is the first book I can remember that captivated me with its content while truly making me think about larger, cosmic concepts and connecting me with history in a way that seemed real and palpable.

Carroll is nearly as good a podcast guest as he is a storyteller. In the podcast, we cover a ton of ground, touching on a variety of subjects including:

  • The importance of history, and particularly these forgotten stories: “There are still all these great stories around us, and they connect us in ways we don’t even realize.”
  • The best advice he was ever given: “Don’t write to be published. Write because you love to write. Write because it changes your view of the world. Write because it makes you more attentive to what’s around you.”
  • On the pros and cons of modern media: “I do wonder overall how much the art of conversation is being lost … because the art of conversation is so much a part of writing.”

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Andrew Carroll: “Every writer has to be a reader”

If there is such a thing as the Telling the Story Blog trifecta, Andrew Carroll has completed it.

I first mentioned the author and his book, Here Is Where, on my 3 Great Stories segment.

Then, after reading the book last month, I wrote a commentary in the form of a review about the masterpiece he had produced.

Now, I am proud to introduce Carroll as my latest guest on the Telling the Story podcast.

Carroll is a two-time New York Times best-selling author whose most recent work, Here Is Where, is a look at the forgotten stories from America’s history. The author road-tripped across — and even beyond! — the continental United States to fulfill the mission.

Come back to tellingthestoryblog.com Wednesday at 8 AM to hear the full podcast with myself and Carroll. We talk about a variety of subjects, delving into the overarching themes of his book and examining the storytelling process one chooses when facing the mountainous challenge of writing a 450-page book.

Carroll also offers his advice for young writers. His first pearl of wisdom? If you want to write well, you need to read. A lot.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Matt Detrich: “My stomach just dropped” when the Sun-Times fired its photographers

In the world of journalism right now, there is one big story.

And it is this.

The Chicago Sun-Times shocked the newspaper world when it laid off its entire photography staff last month. It left many photographers feeling both disrespected and misunderstood.

It also left many wondering what could become of their jobs.

This seemed like a great topic for the fourth episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

Matt Detrich is a staff photographer with the Indianapolis Star; he has worked there for 15 years. Like most photographers I know — heck, like most journalists I know — he takes an awful lot of pride in his work. Now, however, he is incorporating the iPhone into his work; he is shooting video in addition to photos; and he is proactively changing with the times, sometimes against his purist heart.

“My stomach just dropped,” Detrich said, when he heard the news about the Sun-Times.

Come back to tellingthestoryblog.com Wednesday at 8 AM to hear the full podcast with myself and Detrich. We dig deep about the Sun-Times’ decision, the transition to a more immediate and web-based industry, and the misconceptions about a photographer’s day-to-day life.

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