“I find these weird, quirky stories on California’s backroads,” says John Bartell, a reporter at Tegna’s ABC affil KXTV Sacramento,and the guy behind Bartell’s Backroads. You might find Bartell’s stories on the side of the road, but more likely off the beaten path. “I’m on one story and something catches my eye,” is how Bartell […]
“I find these weird, quirky stories on California’s backroads,” says John Bartell, a reporter at Tegna’s ABC affil KXTV Sacramento,and the guy behind Bartell’s Backroads.
You might find Bartell’s stories on the side of the road, but more likely off the beaten path.
“I’m on one story and something catches my eye,” is how Bartell describes how he finds his stories.
Haven’t you ever been driving down the road and you see something unusual, and wonder to yourself, what’s the story with that? That’s what Bartell does, tells the backstory.
Like what happened to Dixie the dinosaur, one of his favorite stories.
(NOTE: I thought it would be interesting to post both versions of Bartell’s stories, the on-air version from the website and the Facebook example.)
Cohen says Bartell “brought that up in the newsroom and five people asked, ‘Oh yeah, what happened with that?”
Sometimes it’s a popular road-side attraction. Or it might be something right under your very nose, hiding in plain sight.
(NOTE: No Facebook version could be found.)
Either way, “these are the kind of stories “people talk about,” says Sam Cohen, KXTV’s news director.
“This is the kind of content readers want to hear about and engage with for a long time,” says Cohen.
Bartell says he tries to find stories in all the 16 counties KXTV covers. In fact, there’s a cool interactive map on KXTV’s website with little pins to highlight the locations of each story.
When you hover over a pin, it gives a little description of the story.
Bartell has been doing stories like this for KXTV for about a year and a half, but it’s only been recently that the station has brought them together under the Bartell’s Backroads umbrella.
“These are the stories that really matter to our community, the stories that make people more connected with our station”, says Cohen.
Not many stations have the vision, the imagination and the luxury of having a dedicated reporter hit the backroads in search of the unusual, the weird and the quirky.
“John is like a superhero for these people, answer their questions, and elevate their community,” says Cohen.
“I sort of hope this catches on with other places,” says Bartell.
Me, too, John.
NOTE: I can’t write a column about a reporter doing feature-like stories without honoring my friend, the late, great Jon Quattlebaum.
Jon was the feature reporter for WINK in Ft. Myers in the mid-’90s and did the kicker for the 6 o’clock everyday under the umbrella, The Q Point of View.
Jon’s stories were inventive, creative and always fun. He was beloved by the people in Southwest Florida. Sadly, in 1994, Jon died in a hiking accident in Phoenix, where he was interviewing for a job.
Here are two stories from Jon. The first is the straight news story about a recycling sneaker program, with a little humor from Jon. The second is pure Jon, letting his imagination run wild on the theme of what sneakers can be used for instead of recycling them.