• Lauren Donovan

Lessons from Storytelling in 2018

Updated: Jan 2, 2019

There is something to be learned from every story on the rundown. Here's a behind-the-scenes look of some of the stories in 2018 that impacted me this year as a journalist.


You'll believe age really is but a number, when you see...

Reflection: After an hour on the ice with these four, I became a much more confident skater! Pro tip: Put your weight in the back of your heels! Lots of spunk and maintaining a sense wonder help keep you young at heart.


For the heart wrenching month Mollie Tibbetts was missing I spent unforgettable days with the kind and giving people of Brooklyn. This is a follow up story we did the week before she was tragically found.

Reflection: For this particular story, we wanted to bring our viewers into the various scenes under investigation instead of just offering them press conference sound.

I will never forget the kindness of the Tibbets family. “Call us at any hour” her father said at a press conference while fielding gut-wrenching questions from both local and national media. The strength and grace with which they handled the unthinkable will forever stay with me.


Alongside our social media team, I helped develop a short Instagram-story segment to highlight the top feel-good-stories of the week.

Reflection: I wanted to focus on the positive stories that made central Iowans proud and excited by the place they call home. Instagram with it's artistic elements offers a fun escape from the hard-news cycle. We branded it Gr8t News and transferring my storytelling skills to this medium proved successful. Having a consistent color "aesthetic"kept the feed looking professional and I was also able to attract new followers by using the most popular hashtags affiliated with Central Iowa. When I first began running the KCCI Instagram in November of 2017 we had roughly 400 followers. Now, I am proud to say today, we've hit 18 thousand!


New talk on the trade war with China? Let's send Pacific Northwest Lauren out into the fields or to the CAFO (concentrated-animal-feeding-operation).

Reflection: I am proud to say that I can now talk about Argentinian soy bean markets. Covering the Ag-beat has been a real eye-opener for this Northwest city girl who had never seen a combine in her life (well at least recognized one). Now, I’ve ridden in these giant machines, marched through muddy cornfields and have enjoyed getting to know some of the farmers at the local co-op. I have especially enjoyed the self-deprecating humor of many of the farmers I have met, and appreciate that they have taken the time to let me learn about their lifes’ work. I am struck by how their livelihood is directly impacted by our global economy and most recently the trade war. 


Katie Jo Long is the definition of tough.


We received a newsroom email with video of Katie competing in a local Cross-fit event.  Watching her weight lift with just one arm blew me away. I instantly wanted to tell her story.  Katie was hesitant at first, she didn’t look at it as a story - it is just who she is.  I am grateful that she finally  agreed to grab a coffee with me. Katie’s story is about grit, empowerment and living life to its fullest.


Everyone loves ice cream! So who could resist a pint-sized polka dot truck that's serving up smiles in the heat of summer?

Reflection: This was a story I had to fight for during our morning meeting. After multiple failed attempts at pitching it, I was able to set it up a week in advance. However it was under the requirement that it had to be done first thing in the morning leaving room in case a big story broke for me to be "rerouted".  Fortunately persistence won the day, a much needed skill in this line of work. Fun fact, to get some of these shots, I may or may not have driven the news car with photojournalist, Corney Kintzer on the hood!


It looked like a scene from War of the Worlds.


Seeing the devastation left after a tornado rips through Main Street feels like something from a fiction story. While in the midst of this break story, often I felt at a loss for words to explain what I was seeing. I was in total shock. We did live coverage on the air for two hours straight. At one point our batteries died and I had to dodge water main breaks, broken glass and debris to get the broadcast back up. The neighborhood you see in this Facebook Live was the hardest hit. Amazingly and thankfully, no lives were lost.


Texting in jails.

Reflection: At first, when I heard inmates were allowed to text in 45 Iowa counties, I shook my head. But as many in the comment section of my Facebook post for this story said, after watching the story, they changed their mind. When I arrived at the Guthrie County Jail I had no idea that I was going to actually be reporting from a cell. The four inmates we met were all very polite, I had never interacted with someone in prison before. Photojournalist, Cortney Kintzer says in his over thirty years in this business, he has NEVER put a microphone on an inmate.


Cotton candy craze. Its flying off the shelves all over the worked and its coming from West Des Moines, Iowa.

Reflection: I turned this story out after a morning show shift with photographer Zachary Hayes. I worked with Zachary on another feature and we utilized a Cardi B instrumental, so for this story I wanted to do something similar. On the way to the shoot we were playing candy-themed music and “Candy Man” by Christina Aguilera came on and it just clicked. Bringing this fun story together with just the right music made it just right.


Memorial for plane crash victims been thirty years since the crash that took the lives of members of the Iowa State Cross Country team.

Reflection: This story was about remembering and honoring the 7 victims of a plane crash back in 1985. Members of the Iowa State Cross County team who tragically lost their lives in a plane crash. It was a bitterly cold day, but that did not deter old team members from coming to this now sacred spot to share their respects and memories. A beautiful memorial. For this story we knew before attending the dedication that we wanted to use old file tape. Photojournalist, John Houghton was on this assignment with me and he actually shot the original video of the scene back in the eighties! It was emotional for him and it meant a lot to everyone at the memorial that he was doing the follow up.

I would love to know what you think of some of these! Feel free to share your comments and thoughts below!



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