Digital Derring-Do Drives Storytelling Success

It takes a particular kind of mind to review a story that exists in one format and then imagine it in another format, to give it a fresh resonance in an alternate manner.

The Sea Grant and Water Resources institutes are fortunate to have communicators with those kinds of creative minds. Two of them applied their ingenuity to four existing stories and went on to fashion them into compelling videos and podcasts, which recently yielded professional recognition through award competitions.

Marie Zhuikov, science communicator, is a talented writer. Each time she works on a story, she records her interviews to ensure accuracy. Not one to let such a mother lode of material lie, she then creates podcasts of some of those stories. Two of them were honored with AVA Digital Awards early in 2020.

“Connecting Teachers and Students to the Lake Superior Watershed” won a gold through the AVA Digital Awards. “It Takes a Family to Deal With Dangerous Currents” received an honorable mention nod. Both podcasts are part of a longer series by Zhuikov, Wisconsin Water News. Plug in for a listen, or a re-listen.

“The people I interview are what makes these stories so interesting,” Zhuikov said. “Instead of the standard phone conversation, I was able to get out of my office and talk to these people in the field, which makes the stories livelier and more immediate.”

Digital Storyteller Bonnie Willison found the inspiration for her award-winning work in a best-selling Sea Grant book. “People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair With an Ancient Fish” is filled with history, fish tales and photos.

Willison created video profiles of two people in the book who carve decoys for sportsmen who harvest lake sturgeon through spearing.

“Voice of the Coast: George Schmidt” won an editing award and a judge’s choice award at the Madison Media Professionals WAVE competition. One only three judge’s choice awards given, Willison’s video was termed “astounding.”

Willison herself said, “It was an honor to receive recognition for this video. George was a pleasure to interview, and I’m glad I was able to share his charming and inspiring stories through the Voices of the Coast project.”

Willison also won a merit award for “Great Lakes Fisheries and Family Businesses: Titus Seilheimer,” highlighting the work and background of Sea Grant’s fisheries specialist.

Watch these videos for the first time or re-watch them and reflect on the storytelling.