By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 15, 2018)
Third in a series
The power of the written word, of the spoken word, of journalism to make an argument — or simply tell a story — in persuasive, coherent passages remains Stephen Brunt’s mission du jour.
For him, it’s enough.
Packing a punch into each written paragraph, picking the right words and the right phrases to make a point are his supreme skills.
Exhibit A: A 2016 tribute to all-time hockey legend Gordie Howe. Narrating for Sportsnet, where Brunt serves as Mr. Versatility, he provides a vivid example.
There’s an understated beauty in focusing on one important task: telling a story.
Listen to Brunt’s words and watch how they perfectly complement the images of Howe’s hockey career.
The skill for asking the right questions strengthens Brunt’s work.
Noting the longevity of Mr. Hockey’s career — from 1946 to the early ’80s — Brunt asks the questions all of us should ask if we were narrating the video: “How did he do that? How did he mess with time?”
Interspersed with vintage game footage of the Detroit Red Wings icon, Brunt also points out that he had “a mean streak a mile wide.”
There’s no sugar-coating that description. It works in helping paint a powerful picture about the way the rough, rugged Howe played the game.
While words, ideas, sounds and images work in harmony to tell meaningful stories in this multimedia age, Brunt remains a classic journalist in one sense. The Ontario, Canada, native admits he has no interest in using Twitter.
The longtime former Globe and Mail sports columnist was asked to explain why. He prefaced his answer by discussing how readers used to interact with the media, how they could make suggestions before arrival of the social media age we now live in.
“I’m not on social media, so people could email me through the newspaper and I guess through Sportsnet, and back in the old days they used to write letters, which I always kind of liked, because even if they were nasty, you had to spend some time on them, right? You actually had to invest in them. But I made a conscious decision to stay away from Twitter because I’ve seen too many people just get consumed by it, for better or for worse,” Brunt said in a recent phone interview.
“And it’s a mean world, and it’s a cheap world, and I don’t want to react. And part of it is — again it’s kind of old school — (but) the stories I write are not me, they are separate from me. They are something that I produce, and people can react to that, but that’s not reacting to me. They are reacting to the work I produce, and I want that separation.”
While others boast about their gazillion Twitter followers, the 59-year-old Brunt, who penned the thoughtful 1999 book “The New Ice Age: A Year in the life of the NHL,” is grounded by his principles.
“The work is not me,” he said. “And I think that’s healthy. (On Twitter), I think that’s where you become the product, and it’s not my cup of tea. I know it works for some guys, and it certainly can boost your profile and your brand, but it’s disposable, and it’s reactive and it’s angry.
“I like to keep (a separation) — even back in the day when they started opening up comment sections on newspaper websites, where you can kind of interact with readers. I said I don’t want to interact with readers. I want readers to react to what I wrote, but that’s not me.
“And I’m happy for people to say they loved or hated what I wrote, and that’s good and I pay attention to it, but again I like that one degree of separation between me and the work.”