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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, 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.

The tradition continues.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

I often find I enjoy the stories the second time almost as much as the first.

I posted my favorite written of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Celebrating 75 years of Red Rocks Amphitheater (9/5/16, KDVR-TV): Maybe it’s too easy.

Maybe it’s too easy to attempt a 20-minute special when the subject is such a ready-made stunner.

And maybe it’s too easy to do so with not one or two photographers, but more than a half-dozen.

But there’s nothing easy about the craft and creativity that went into this exquisite show from KDVR-TV, honoring the captivating Red Rocks Amphitheater on its 75th birthday.

Everyone involved deserves credit for such a compelling tribute to a fitting subject, but I want to specifically shout out the photographers. Yes, they had the built-in benefit of covering one of the most visually beautiful sites in the world, but they didn’t waste the chance, continually finding unique stories to tell and presenting characters as memorable as the amphitheater itself. Every piece is a winner, but I particularly enjoyed the segment with Blues Traveler, shot by Bryant Vander Weerd, Chris Mosher, and Isaias Medina.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring voting, laughter yoga, & the Cubs

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.

My first vote as an American (11/4/16, KUSA-TV): In a year that has been marked by election fatigue, we could all use a good reminder of the idealistic value of voting.

This piece provides that reminder in a powerful way.

Anastasiya Bolton is a reporter for KUSA-TV in Denver and a Russian native who voted in America for the first time in 2008 as a naturalized citizen. In this first-person opinion piece, Bolton speaks to viewers about why she treats the right to vote as a privilege. She speaks with passion and chokes up repeatedly during the two-minute monologue. Even if she perhaps tips her hand as to who she selected in the voting booth in ’08, she does so with the larger purpose of conveying the importance of the opportunity.

I admire Bolton for stepping out of her comfort zone and offering such an appeal. She presents straightforward honesty and emotion in a political season often criticized for lacking either.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016 (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.

We are halfway through 2016, which means the continuation of an annual tradition: the “Best Of (so far)” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year so far last week. This week, my three favorite audio/video pieces from January through June, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

Government mistakenly declares Minnesota man dead (5/10/16, KARE-TV): This story, from talented KARE-TV investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe, is hard to believe.

But it’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s serious and concerning.

Lagoe looks into the case of a Minnesota man named Steven Monno, one of 12,000 people each year who are wrongly declared dead by the Social Security Administration. Monno and his sister attempt unsuccessfully to beat the bureaucracy, so they enlist Lagoe and the investigative team to help straighten out the situation.

Lagoe indeed straightens it out, but he also unfolds a widespread issue and envelops this personal story in a national context. One can hear a certain amount of disbelief in his voice, as if he spent half the time saying to himself, “Really? This happens?”

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5 lessons from the NPPA’s best video stories of 2015

It’s getting harder than ever to keep our viewers’ attention.

That’s what we keep hearing, and that’s why, we are told, we must adapt.

If attention spans are shrinking and devotion to broadcast news is dwindling, local news journalists must expand how we connect with others. I, for example, have talked a lot about the potential of social media to enable our work to reach unforeseen audiences. Maybe we all need to educate ourselves on new platforms and media in addition to our product on-air.

But we cannot forget about that product.

If anything, we need to step it up.

The best stories I saw last year demanded my attention, and I watched zero of them on television. I watched all of them online, via links and recommendations from colleagues and friends. I arrived upon them organically and, when I clicked on the videos, found myself instantly engrossed.

A few weeks ago, the NPPA announced its Best of Photojournalism winners for last year, and I became engrossed again. I have, in several years past, authored blog posts about lessons learned from the competition’s champs, and I feel compelled to do so once more, thanks to some tremendous storytelling from some of the nation’s most talented journalists:

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring violins, cheat codes, & Cuba

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.

Only in Indiana: The Awakening (4/6/16, WTHR-TV): One of the best storytelling tandems in local news just produced a gem.

Reporter Kevin Rader and photographer Steve Rhodes always craft powerful, joyous stories for WTHR-TV’s “Only in Indiana” segment. In this case, they turn their gaze to a young boy named Elias, blind and deaf since birth, and his “awakening” with a musical instrument.

To say much more would mean spoiling a truly beautiful piece. Rader offers tender narration while Rhodes provides his usual exquisite editing; I have profiled these two before, and I have no doubt I will mention them again in this space before too long.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2014, 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.

Having done the “3 Great Stories” segment all year long, I now face the challenge of picking my favorites.

But I have picked them, and here they are.

I posted my three favorite written stories of the year last week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite audio/video pieces of 2014, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

#3) Knox County man builds backyard roller-coaster — again (10/29/14, WTHR-TV): I will say it simply: this story is one of the finest TV features I have seen in a long time.

The “plot” is simple, summed up in the above headline. A rural Indiana man has gained worldwide fame for a roller-coaster he built in his own backyard. Most stations might assign a reporting crew to tell the story in 90 seconds; it might make a nice feature but then fade from memory quickly afterwards.

Not this station, and not this story.

Reporter Kevin Rader and photographer Steve Rhodes put an extraordinary amount of care into this piece, and it shows in every loving touch. They reveal a new layer of the story every minute, and they present their subject, named John Ivers, in the context of both his creation (the roller-coaster) and his community.

I challenge you to watch this and not crack a smile. (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Putin, Times Square, & rollercoasters

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.

Putin’s friend profits in purge of schoolbooks (11/1/14, New York Times): The day after this article was published, it ranked among the most viewed stories on NYTimes.com.

And it should have. This is the type of hard-hitting, well-researched journalism that is claimed by so many to be missing.

New York Times writers Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers present a sobering situation taking place in Russia: the country’s Ministry of Education and Science has cut more than half of the 14 million books allowed to be used in school, with one lone exception: a publishing house, Enlightenment, whose newly appointed chairman once worked very closely with President Vladimir Putin.

The whole article is fascinating, but the most powerful paragraph comes early on:

“The country is now run by a few families, or clans, close to Putin,” said one publisher, who like many others spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “They used to focus on the very biggest businesses: oil, gas, big infrastructure projects, the banks. But now that they have eaten all the food in that cupboard, they are eating the mice, and the mice’s food, going after smaller and smaller markets.”

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