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PODCAST EPISODE #51: Sarah-Blake Morgan & Katie Eastman, MMJane

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I have never been to the page of the Facebook group run by my guests on this podcast.

I can’t get into the group.

And that’s a really good thing.

Sarah-Blake Morgan and Katie Eastman run MMJane, a Facebook group that provides a platform and community for its nearly 1,000 members.

The members are all women, and they are all solo video journalists.

Such a group is long overdue. A few weeks ago, I released the results of the MMJ Survey, in which nearly 100 MMJs gave their anonymous thoughts about how they view the job and business. I discovered a massive gender gap in the responses. Female MMJs consistently gave lower marks to statements about the solo life, most notably to the statement: “I see myself as an MMJ ten years from now.”

This is a huge problem for the future of our business.

Eastman and Morgan are my guests on Episode 51 of the Telling The Story podcast.

I spent 45 minutes chatting with the MMJane administrators about ways to better cater to female MMJs and give them a stronger voice in local TV newsrooms.

Only afterwards did I realize: they have already taken a giant step towards doing that.

The mere existence and ownership of MMJane is a massive victory for the one-woman band community — and, thus, our industry as a whole. Underrepresented groups advance more quickly when they develop a unified voice and receive positions of power. MMJane provides both.

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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…)