Imagine being the station in your market that finds that gem of a story that nobody else has. You know, the kind of story that gets viewers talking–and perhaps more importantly, sharing the story on Facebook by the thousands. The kind of story that quickly gets national attention, and lands on your network’s evening news. Not as a VO, but your reporter’s package aired nationally because it’s just that good. Imagine.
KARE reporter Boyd Huppert’s story was just that–a phenomenon. It first aired on the NBC affiliate on Sunday, and re-aired on the NBC Nightly News Monday night. Home run, right? But here’s the thing. Huppert’s story would almost certainly never make the cut in many–if not most–newsrooms across the country. Why? Because it’s simple. It’s nice. It’s heartwarming.
Huppert himself is a rarity. He actually gets paid to tell feature stories in a business that has, in most markets, sent the feature reporter out the door years ago. His idol, appropriately enough, is Charles Kuralt (kids: look him up). Huppert’s story of the friendship between an 89-year-old World War II vet and his three-year-old neighbor is the kind of thing Kuralt would have loved, and the kind of story that television as a medium was designed for. And viewers ate it up. After the story first aired, KARE viewer Hayley Forrest commented on KARE’s Facebook page “Best story you’ve ever done!! This should go viral!”
It did. KARE reports the story’s been shared “hundreds of thousands of times” and aired on stations across the country. It’s almost as if people want to see a simple story that makes them feel something other than fear and horror. “”I think people are craving good news,” said Anika Rychner, the mother of three-year-old Emmett, who featured in Huppert’s story. “There is just not a lot of good news in the world.”
But imagine walking into the morning editorial meeting in your newsroom and pitching this: “hey, there’s this guy–he’s almost 90–and he’s got a delightful friendship with a little boy who lives next door. I think it could be a special story.” Stares from around the conference table. Nervous laughter. Have you lost it? Wait. So the guy’s actually a sexual predator, right? I mean that’s the news angle, right? “No. Just a nice story about this special relationship.”
And that’s sad. But then, places like KARE are special. And because they’re still willing to send a storyteller like Boyd Huppert into the field to tell stories that others would laugh off means they have a unique relationship with their viewers–their community. And in a hyper competitive business, isn’t that an edge worth investing in? “Tremendous story told in such a wonderful way. I’ve cried each time I’ve seen it. Nice job, Boyd Huppert,” a viewer commented.
Watch the story for yourself. Would it make the cut on your station?