Two-hour turnaround: a storm story

Typically I use this space to showcase longer stories, in both time and preparation.

Not this story.

Here is an example of where good storytelling techniques can help produce a compelling report in a limited amount of time.

How limited? From start to finish, two hours.

Late last month, the Atlanta area got struck by heavy storms that brought rain, lightning, wind, and hail. Like many April showers, this one — to borrow a metaphor from a different month — came in like a lion, flying through the region and causing traffic back-ups on the highways. It also toppled several trees, and I was sent by my WXIA-TV producers to one such incident in Roswell, Ga., where a tree had fallen on a home.

That was all I knew as I arrived at the house at 3:30 PM, but I soon discovered the rest of the story.

And I learned it from the home’s owner: Yolanda Rossi, age 92.

Despite the fact that a tree had knocked out the corner of her dining room, Rossi seemed undaunted by the whole thing and welcomed me into her home with a smile. As she showed me the damage and provided her perspective on the event, I knew I could potentially put together a poignant piece about her experience that day.

I was supposed to be live at 5 PM, but I called the 11Alive assignment desk and asked if the 6 PM show producer would like this story.

That producer said no. The 5 PM producer said yes. (more…)

MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Ten observations from the first two weeks

I am starting to settle into a groove.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing; events are taking place and leading to dramatic moments; both the mountain and coastal clusters are starting to buzz; and the views remain fully picturesque.

Having said all that, I must say this: the whole thing still seems very isolated.

A colleague and I were talking this morning while watching women’s bobsled practice. We began comparing international trips, and he told me about how, in 1997, he vacationed in Australia. He felt liberated, he said, by his complete anonymity halfway around the world. In a time of few cell phones and extremely limited Internet (he said he brought a pager), he reveled in being completely unchained.

Now in 2014, staying in Russia for a work trip, I carry two cell phones in my hip pocket and plug into an Ethernet connection in the workspace. I submit daily reports for my station in Atlanta and do occasional Olympics wrap-ups for USA Today. I even wear a credential around my neck that has my name, photo, and birthday.

On this trip, I am anything but anonymous.

But the trip itself still feels detached from my regular life.

I know I am in Russia, but I rarely feel like I am seeing its authentic culture. I am living out of a hotel room, in which I spend maybe one hour awake per day. I can name countless ways, many of which I have already documented, in which my life at the Olympics is anything but normal.

At this point, I feel like I have begun to stop worrying and enjoy the ride.

And the ride is very much enjoyable.


MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Ten observations from the first five days

Five days in Sochi have felt like both five minutes and five years.

Days fly along at the speed of a bobsled, with reporters and photojournalists – or, in my case, both jobs in one – churning out content for all forms of media.

And yet, because those workdays are so long, and because they are bombarded with so many new experiences, they make the recent past seem distant. My flights from Atlanta to Sochi seem many moons, and many stories, ago.

Here are ten observations from my first five days:


1. The Olympic sites are, in fact, quite gorgeous. Sochi has a peaceful charm, with the Black Sea on one side and the Caucasus Mountains on the other. The mountains themselves are stunning up-close, specifically around the Olympic village and ski venues.


2. But I’m still waiting for that kick of Russia. I lamented in Thursday’s entry the struggle to find authenticity in any of it. Other than the natural wonders themselves, the entire outfit seems both temporary and out of place. The many beautiful buildings and arenas have been built specifically for the Olympics; they seem ill-fitted for when the Olympics leave. I have a hard time admiring the buildings’ beauty without wondering about their long-term purpose.