The Storyteller at Heart

Last week we had a guest speaker in our Journalistic Writing class. While I had not met the man prior to that day, I have read some of his work and have heard of him. His notoriety travels well in the Biggest Little City. Frank X. Mullen, Journalist. He used to be a truck driver, a restaurant cook and a tree trimmer. Now he spends his days tracking down the story, the human story.

“The human story beats the hell out of everything else.” His mantra throughout the time he spent speaking with us. He is a storyteller and a good one at that. Beryl Love , the editor for the Reno Gazette Journal, called him a walking story.

Frank says that he enjoys telling the story, especially when he can take something complicated, something most people look at and can’t figure out where to begin, and make it simple. He called it detective work, akin to Sherlock Holmes. Frank talked with us about investigative reporting, “you have to keep pounding and you have to work in your spare time because you have to feed the monster.”

“There’s a database for the number of orange lollipops.”

He discussed several characteristics that investigative journalists must possess in order to be successful at storytelling: persistence, collecting volumes of information, digging and needing to research the law, the way things are supposed to be, learning the technology. And the best tool a journalist has in their repertoire, he says, is their brain – when you are faced with road blocks, figure out a way around them.  Frank reminded us multiple times that somebody, somewhere keeps track of everything and anything, “there’s a database for the number of orange lollipops.”

Facetious, but nevertheless undoubtedly true.  It is apparent when we listened to him talk that he is invested, not just out of duty to his employer, but emotionally in his stories and the people they affect. And above all, his mission is to be a fair storyteller. Not telling the story he wants to tell, but giving a fair defense to both sides.

Frank X. Mullen, a walking story, and a journalist.


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