I had hoped to share a post I saw on Facebook from, of all folks, the National Park Service, on How to Not Get Eaten By a Bear. OK, it wasn’t really called that because bears don’t usually eat us, and would probably prefer not to kill us if they had their druthers and could just avoid us altogether. So why no post? Turns out it was first posted a year ago in June. But summer is summer and bears are bears and, alas, humans are not always smart. So it still has merit if you can find it because it is so not boring. I would have hunted it down (ha!) for you, but got so lost wandering the wildlife trails of the Forest Service posts that I never made it past last month. Whatever you do, do not miss the recent post from the Denali National Park and Preserve announcing the return of the Live Puppy Cam. Then maybe contact all your local government PIOs and suggest they learn to write things that people will read. One of my fave teases was about the bear that went without food all winter and still woke up huge. ( know the feeling.) All this reminded me of a Storyboard piece this past March that featured a police department PIO from Bangor, Maine, whose news releases were so engaging he became a minor social media star. If anyone wants to interview the genius behind the Park Service posts, ping me.
- I would be unfair in my celebration of effective levity if I didn’t counter with this week’s story about the death of a camper in Montana who fended off a grizzly, only to have it return and kill her. The story (I read the version by Jonathan Edwards of the Washington Post Morning Mix) is a reminder of the wild in wildlife, and a cautionary tale about the toll that can be exacted, on both humans and animals, as we encroach on more and more of nature.
- Another echo came in a piece from poynter.org. Amaris Castillo interviewed journalists and agents about the whys and hows of moving from news and magazine pieces to deep-dive nonfiction books. Storyboard has been doing a similar series, featuring lessons passed along by journalists who have made that leap. Under our umbrella “So you want to write a book?” you’ll find tips on what it takes, from learning TikTok to rejecting rejection.
- Many of my sportswriting and sports reading friends say that Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post is the unparalleled champ in a very talented field of sports columnists. Jenkins was at it again two weeks ago in her take-down of college football overlords who are lining their pockets as they sell out the players and the sport. You don’t have to agree with her, but reading her will help you understand the fuss about elite teams switching leagues. (I’ve finally stopped asking Mountain Editor how the Big Ten now could have 16 teams and Pac 12 just 10. He should send Jenkins a thank-you note.)
- If you have access to USA Today’s subscriber-exclusive content, check out the narrative tick-tock on the missing 187 minutes of White House tape and transcripts from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. It’s told largely in by-the-numbers graphics form, but this story reader could not stop reading. If you don’t have access, get it from a friend or, heck, subscribe for a few months for $1. I was of the traditional newspaper crowd that sniffed at USA Today when it was launched 40 years ago. Too many bells, whistles and dancing graphics for my taste. But there’s no question they led the way on those fronts, and are doing so again by presenting complex stories in smart, new formats.
- Finally, a shuddered breath of a story from The New York Times (Anton Troianovski) about President Vladimir Putin’s escalated drive to indoctrinate schoolchildren into a fierce and militaristic loyalty to Mother Russia and a disdain for all things West. If you can’t hear the echoes of that in history and in the U.S. today, you aren’t listening hard enough.
Portions of this essay were originally published as a Storyboard newsletter on July 22, 2022