The Tale of Lot 180

Lot 180 from Florida’s Unclaimed Property Auction, 2009. Photo by Kenny Malone.


On the face of it, a story about an auction is a pretty simple assignment. Half the work is just showing up. Then interview the auctioneer, people managing the auction, some buyers, and you’re done.

Well, you’re done if you want to produce a boring story.

In 2009, WLRN reporter Kenny Malone produced a story about Florida’s Unclaimed Property Auction and it’s anything but run-of-the-mill. Kenny reveals his approach to creative storytelling on this edition of HowSound. His method centers around a clever over-arching question, structuring a narrative with motion, and a connection to place.

I suspect you’ll want to take notes on this one.

Best, Rob



5 comments to The Tale of Lot 180

  • I was a little ambivalent about this story. On the one hand, I think you picked a great story to talk about how it’s compelling to hear a reporter go to work. For example, I remember when Planet Money kind of did that when they were looking into the homes owned by the Toxic Asset they bought while covering the financial collapse. It’s kind of cool to hear the reporter’s making the rings and picking up the phone and doing those initial questions.

    That’s totally worth unpacking.

    On the other hand, I came to the end of THE STORY OF LOT 180 and was like… well he didn’t find anything. He found what sounded like a really sad, estranged family, but he didn’t find out anything about what was in the box. I guess we’re meant to assume that she was just deranged, but I don’t know that that’s true. If she had a photo of her husband in there with the salt-and-pepper shakers it could have been a collection she started when they were still together?

    On some level I listened to it and thought it was also an example of how a reporter can get stuck chasing a story for two months and not get anywhere. Is it worth doing a story on all your dead ends? I suppose we got some vignette about the escheats of Florida, but I couldn’t help but think that he might have really gotten somewhere if he’d chased another lot.

    • rob

      Hi Brady,

      Thanks for taking the time to listen and comment. Much obliged.

      I think I agree with you, at least initially I did. When I first heard the piece, I, too, thought the ending was weak without a grand summation or revelation.

      Then again, it’s what happened. And, that lack of finality or elevation in the story at the end resembles what appears to be the end for Udivilla Rutherford. It’s sad, either way. Whether what was in the box was the collection of a deranged woman or important heirlooms representing the early days of her marriage, no one seems to care about the objects or her. :(

      I wonder, too, about stories that don’t have neat and tidy endings. When do they work? When don’t they? Maybe a subject for a future HowSound!

      Thanks again.


  • Gabriel

    Hi Rob,
    thanks for making HowSound. I discovered it a week ago and have listened to all the episodes and most of Saltcast also. :)

  • Outstanding story there. What happened after?

    Take care!

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