seth voorhees

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Kendrick Lamar, Jeff Bezos, & the subway

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.

Kendrick Lamar, Hip-Hop’s Newest Old-School Star (6/25/14, New York Times): In terms of traditional print journalism, few outlets are doing it as well right now as the New York Times.

This is not meant as a backhanded compliment, or an indication that somehow the capital-T Times is not advancing with the lowercase-T times.

But when media critics ponder how storytelling can survive in such a frenetic landscape, they should point to articles like this, where Times writer Lizzy Goodman uses her backstage access to rapper Kendrick Lamar to pen a multi-dimensional, poignant, and powerful portrait.

Similar artist profiles often read like press releases; you can smell the transaction of access for favorable coverage. Not here. Goodman parallels Lamar’s no-frills music with his similar approach behind the scenes, and she documents numerous revealing moments — such as when, while on tour with Kanye West, the two hip-hop stars only meet once, and it seems like a far bigger deal for their entourages and videographers than for the artists themselves. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring animals and David Letterman

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.

Being assigned a local TV news feature story about animals is like starting Monopoly with an extra $2,000 and three “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

Basically, you’re a mile ahead in a three-mile race.

Animals — particularly when placed in an eccentric context — almost always provide the kind of necessary flair, both visually and aurally, for a light-hearted feature. Attend a morning pitch meeting at my station, WXIA-TV in Atlanta, and watch as the mere mention of an animal-related story elicits swoons from half the crowd.

(It also typically brings out groans from the other half.)

But if animals provide great feature material, the storyteller must still finish the job and produce a compelling piece.

Here are two strong examples of that from last week — as well as a thoughtful farewell piece to a late night titan:

A sign of spring at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery (4/7/14, TWC Rochester): Unfortunately, only Time Warner Cable subscribers can actually watch this piece on its Rochester affiliate’s web site.

Thankfully, the story’s teller, multimedia journalist Seth Voorhees, liberated it onto YouTube, to which I have linked above.

Voorhees pens a piece about a local cemetery where, every spring, more than a dozen deer show up and, essentially, hang out. As most storytellers might do, he starts by discussing the cemetery and then, 30 seconds in, reveals the deer.

But pay attention to how Voorhees does this. Story-wise, he first introduces a character named Terri Wolfe; she is an older woman who regularly visits the cemetery. As a viewer, I have no idea how Terri fits into the story. Is it about her? A lost loved one of hers? Some feature of the cemetery? This misdirection makes the surprise of the deer more effective.

‘Candidates who really give a crap’ (4/6/14, KUSA-TV Denver): In this story, a couple of Telling The Story favorites take you on a four-minute visit to Animal Town. (more…)