A history of storytelling ready to tell your stories

We make a big deal about telling your stories in a Brand Journalism style. Here's our story in that style.

Terry Greenberg walked into the Elkhart Truth newsroom on Sept. 11, 2001 and saw The Truth’s managing editor looking up at a television. It was unusual for him to be looking at the newsroom TV shortly after 8 a.m.

Then Greenberg saw a replay of one of the terrorist-flown planes flying into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The managing editor looked at Greenberg and said, “that’s the second plane.”

Over the next hour, Greenberg put a big sheet of newsprint up on a wall and started writing down story ideas.

The next day’s edition had almost two-dozen staff written stories as Greenberg and The Truth staff came up with local connections to the nationwide tragedy. Even the sports editor chipped in, interviewing residents who remembered the attack on Pearl Harbor that sparked World War II. He asked them how the 9/11 attacks compared to the Japanese attacks.

“I was a copy editor at The Elkhart Truth and had worked the night before until the presses rolled at 1 a.m. My phone rang sorta early, then, the next morning: ‘You’re going to want to see what’s going on. You’re going to be called to work.’ I watched live, on an old, floor-model TV, an airplane crash that stunned the journalist reporting into a stupefied silence. My stomach turned. I got dressed and headed in,” wrote Stephanie Price 17 years later.

“The Midwest American newsroom was as it should be: abuzz with serious, smart journalists who were also mothers, friends, brothers, citizens. Terry Greenberg expertly coordinated people and resources and emotions, and the staff not only put out an extra – which only happened once or twice in a journalist's career back then – but also pulled together local, ‘what-does-this-mean-to-me’ coverage,” she wrote.

Greenberg led eight newsrooms in five states over 33 years. Those newsrooms served their communities, won their share of awards and had fun along the way.

In addition, Greenberg:

  • Served as president of the Associated Press Managing Editor organizations in Indiana and Illinois.

  • Served multiple times as a discussion leader at the American Press Institute.

  • Taught 17 college journalism classes on editing, writing and even media law. 

He’s interviewed people such as President Bush (the first, seen in the picture above), then-Senate candidate Barack Obama, O.J. Simpson (back when we all liked him), baseball legend Sparky Anderson and many others.

Those interviews make for interesting stories, but it’s not the work of which he’s most proud. 

That’s a three-part series one of his reporters did in 2008 at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that proved Tim Cole – an African-American student at Texas Tech – was innocent of a 1980s rape that sent him to prison where he died. It led to the first posthumous pardon in Texas history given by then-Governor Rick Perry and changed laws. 

In North Dakota and Illinois, Greenberg was involved in successful efforts to open government.

“People love to hear stories about famous people you meet. But what was really important is when your newsroom righted wrongs and successfully fought to keep government open and accessible to the public,” Greenberg said about journalism’s higher calling.

But along with fulfilling that higher calling was a daily desire to inform people what was happening through compelling stories.

“As important and impactful as the Tim Cole story was in changing laws in Texas, the reporter’s excellent writing also told it in a compelling way. No matter how important data is – if what it means is told in a dry, boring way, it won’t resonate with people as well,” he said.

And that storytelling also worked with more simple stories.

“When a reporter would tell me they went and talked to someone and they were not interesting, I’d tell them everyone has a story ... you just have to pull it out of them,” he said.

When Greenberg was editor of the Redlands Daily Facts – the first newsroom he led – he saw a line on the bottom of an obituary sheet. It said “last of the silent B-movie Western stars.”

Greenberg called the funeral home, got the phone number of the man’s daughter, who lived about 45 minutes away. Greenberg interviewed her, used photos she brought down to the paper – all in the morning to make deadline for the afternoon paper. After the man’s career as a movie star he got into law enforcement and was once honored by then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan.

Over his years leading newsrooms, Greenberg learned how to cover big stories and keep his communities informed. 

When the deadly Northridge earthquake hit Southern California in 1994, Greenberg’s Thousand Oaks News Chronicle not only covered the endless stories, but ran a daily list on the front page giving information people needed to know about how to get help.

“I feel like I got a master’s degree in covering the big stories – the earthquake, the Rodney King riots, Southern California firestorms – all around the same time,” he said.

Equally important was learning to make sure stories told the reader what it means to them.

“We bring that to businesses and organizations now. What does their knowledge and experience mean to potential customers and clients?” Terry said.

His management and leadership experience over that time also grew as he realized one size does not fit all employees.

“When the Northridge earthquake hit, we had two newsroom members who suffered major damage to where they lived. One came to work that day to a have something to do ... that was his way of dealing with it. Another needed a number of days to get past the trauma ... that was her way of dealing with it,” said Greenberg. "Neither were right or wrong."

“Understanding people and workplace culture became very important to me. That’s why I love working with companies and organizations on culture change,” he said.

 

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