PODCAST EPISODE #23: Claudine Ewing, reporter, WGRZ-TV


Challenging. Adrenaline-pumping. Riveting. Exhausting.

These words barely begin to describe working at a local TV station during a story so large it compels round-the-clock coverage.

We experienced it in Atlanta last winter during “Snowmageddon”, where a few inches of snow-turned-ice led to massive back-ups on the highways and left people stuck in their cars for hours.

Local TV journalists in Buffalo went through it last month, when the region was pelted with a different kind of snowstorm.

A seven-foot kind of snowstorm.

The historic snowfall — even by Buffalo standards — created massive issues across the region, and the NBC affiliate, WGRZ-TV, replaced its regular programming with non-stop news coverage. Anchors, reporters, producers, photographers, and staffers across the board worked extra-long shifts — outdoors, too, for the crews in the field.

Situations like these stretch a newsroom to its thinnest.

In this case, half of the WGRZ newsroom could not even get there.

So says longtime reporter Claudine Ewing: “Anybody who lived in the Southtowns could not get in; they just could not get out of their homes. One of our photographers live in Hamburg, and the snow was so high, he couldn’t open the door.”

Ewing is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

For nearly four years, I worked with Ewing at Channel 2 in Buffalo, and I always admired the area’s resilience in the face of brutal weather. The stereotypes about Buffalo’s climate are not entirely true; the region has beautiful summers and lovely fall foliage in early October. But, I must admit, Buffalo winters are no joke, and I remember my disbelief last month upon learning of a snowstorm somehow too powerful for Western New York.

That said, when I tuned into WGRZ’s live-stream online, I admired the composure and straightforwardness of the anchors and reporters, including my former co-worker Ewing.

If you listen to her words, regarding both the historic snowstorm and her general advice for journalists, you will hear a recurring theme: being connected to the community. In order to truly reach your audience, you have to get to know them. Ewing is a native Western New Yorker who now works in the region, but she continues to develop her contacts and get a feel for the people who value her as a media voice.


3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2014 (so far), audio/video edition

Every week, I will 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 am on vacation — and out of commission — through this week, so I figured I would use these weeks to post “Best Of” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.

Last week I posted my three favorite written stories of the year so far. This week, without further ado, my three favorite audio/video pieces from January through May, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

Young cancer patients find comfort in therapy dogs (5/14/14, WTVF-TV Nashville): Here is a tragic example of a headline submarining a great story.

I can only hope viewers of Nashville’s NewsChannel5 were able to watch the piece without the above spoiler. I was fortunate enough to do so, and I was surprised and rewarded when, two minutes into a powerful profile of a young boy with cancer, a dog pops up.

The story, reported by Chris Conte and photographed by Bud Nelson, discusses the effect of therapy dogs on children who get ultra-anxious at hospitals. The dog in this story is adorable enough, but so is the child being helped. Bryce Greenwell, all of five years old, is charming in numerous ways, including his penchant for the phrase, “Like a boss!”

From start to finish, Conte and Nelson keep you hooked. (more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #2: Ed Kilgore, Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Famer


At the end of my latest podcast interview, with my former co-worker and dean of Buffalo sportscasters Ed Kilgore, the former WGRZ-TV sports anchor reminded me of a conversation we once had during a slow moment at work.

Apparently (and I vaguely remember this), I asked Kilgore — in all sincerity — if he felt Tommy Lee Jones had underachieved.

And then, he recalls, we seriously discussed this topic for several minutes.

Such is the spirit of Ed Kilgore. He is a man who enjoys discussion, no matter what the topic. I shared a cubicle with Kilgore during my time at WGRZ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, and I always knew I could rope him into a deep conversation if I so desired. Kilgore, like myself, enjoys thinking about and dissecting topics — even a topic as seemingly silly as Tommy Lee Jones’ movie career.

Kilgore joined me for Episode #2 of the Telling the Story podcast. A quick bio: he worked at WGRZ-TV for 40 years before retiring last month. He covered four Super Bowls, the Miracle on Ice, and pretty much every big recent sporting event involving the city of Buffalo. He was inducted in 2010 to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and he is by far the most famous sports anchor to have graced Western New York.

In the podcast, we touched on very little of this, because the last decade of Kilgore’s broadcasting career was arguably the most interesting in the context of storytelling. He saw his role change, learning how to edit highlights and becoming a force on social media, and experienced a much darker period in Buffalo sports (the NFL’s Bills have not made the playoffs in more than a decade, and the NHL’s Sabres have not played in a Stanley Cup since 1999).


PODCAST PREVIEW: Ed Kilgore on young sportscasters “doing ESPN job interviews”

I worked with Ed Kilgore at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo for four years.

Ed Kilgore worked at WGRZ-TV for four decades.

The man is a legend — the once and future dean of Buffalo sportscasters. He has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the Miracle on Ice, and he even once ran with the Olympic torch.

This week, he becomes the second esteemed storyteller to visit the Telling The Story podcast.

Come back to tellingthestoryblog.com Wednesday at 8 AM to hear the full podcast with myself and Mr. Kilgore. We discuss the changing face of local TV news and sports, the uniqueness of Buffalo as a sports town, and the lessons an old-timer like Kilgore can teach the young’uns coming up today.