Everyone loves a good story.
What follows is a brief story about story-tellers.
Hopefully it’s good.
If you’ve ever seen media coverage of a non-event, something truly uninteresting, you may have noticed that some people just love to tell stories. One particularly dull day in news history, my local newspaper, The Register Guard, posted a story about how the local middle school janitor loves his job.
It was one of the most engaging pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered.
News persists because journalists are good storytellers, but sometimes the stories are so powerful–so terrifying–that they seem to write themselves. These stories play on our fears and our emotions. They appeal to our hearts. These are stories of life and death, disaster and heroism. These are stories of wildfire.
In the summer of 2013, 19 men gave their lives defending the dusty little town of Yarnell, Arizona. In the spring of 2000, more than 200 families in Los Alamos watched as their homes went up in smoke. In 1988, the nation’s first national park seemed engulfed in the flames of an unstoppable fire. Something about wildfire speaks to people. Whether it affects acres of beloved forest land, structures we call home, or people whom we love, the consuming nature of fire is something to be respected. The absolute power of wildfire is a spectacle, and it’s impossible to report on it without in some way conveying that. The language used by reporters in each of these stories is similar because they all cover a powerful topic. In many cases, their diction is justified.
In the summer of 2019, a lightning struck in the Malheur national forest, causing a fire to break out deep in a roadless area. After spotting the fire, managers decided to hem it in–mostly with existing roadways–and let it burn. They did, and it burned at a variety of severities, reducing fuels and leaving behind a beautiful mosaic of forested landscape. This is a beautiful story about the proper use of fire on the landscape. It tells a new story about fire, a good story. It informs people that when they smell smoke, all is not lost. It’s uplifting, reassuring, and helpful.
A Google search of media coverage for that fire yields no results.