The Research Triangle Park

Telling Stories at RTP 180

By Mar 24, 2016

I saw something at RTP 180 this month for the first time. It was unbelievable, and to be honest, I thought it would never happen. The smell of North Carolina BBQ floating into Home Base at The Frontier didn’t faze a single person as BJ Barham, lead singer of local band American Aquarium, took the stage to share his stories.

Generally, the last speaker at a RTP 180 is standing between 250+ people and tasty, local food. As you can imagine, the room starts to get restless, eyeballs tend to shift over towards the awaiting treats, and a few bold folks actually get up and make their way over be first in line – but not this time! BJ was the icing on a perfect RTP 180 cake, but like any good story, you’ll have to wait until the end to understand how it all unfolds.

Ben Oliver and Justin Plant took the stage first as “Milkshake” played in the background per their request. Even though they’ll deny this fact until they die. Together they form Storyboard Media, a video production company based out of The Frontier. The two shared some of their favorite videos including one of my personal favorites, “Totes my Goat.” I really don’t know how to explain it other than it’s an app that gives you a goat in your pocket. I would encourage you to check it out for yourself here.

Jonathan Opp, a writer at heart from New Kind, took the stage next. Getting his start years ago by helping farmers tell their stories Jonathan claims, “Everyone has a story to tell.” I can’t tell you enough how absolutely true this is. Even you, the person reading this, has a story to tell. Your passions, your life, and your experiences make up one incredible story whether you believe it or not. I’d read your story. Jonathan did a great job of walking us through how to find those stories, even when it doesn’t seem there is one to tell.

The evolution of the newsroom and the birth of the NC Newsroom Cooperative were well represented by our next speaker, Mary Miller. “60-80 years ago the newsroom was a bunch of white guys typing away on typewriters. Today, these rooms are empty as the industry is undergoing massive changes,” explained Mary. Mary went on to share that people still want to tell stories and that there are plenty of stories in our communities to tell. This is where the NC Newsroom Cooperative comes into play. Launching at The Frontier, the NC Newsroom Cooperative is a place where journalists, freelance writers, and other media partners can come collaborate with others in order to get stories told.

This is the part where I’m going to leave you with a big cliffhanger. Did an owl really take Jeff’s hat? I’m convinced, but will you be? It’ll make perfect sense to you after you watch Jeff’s video here. Jeff Polish founded The Monti, and had the entire audience entranced with his tale of a missing hat. Seriously. Check it out!

Now for the icing on the cake; singer/songwriter BJ Barham captured the audience like I’ve never seen before. While BJ was on stage, Anna Rhyne from RTP, texted me “He is crushing it!” I have never in the almost four years of doing this seen a RTP 180 audience so captivated as BJ told the story behind one of his newest songs, which involves his grandfather who worked for the American Tobacco company. I would highly encourage you to watch BJ’s video from 180 to hear both songs and stories that accompany them. Don’t worry BJ, we won’t tell anyone you cried during Toy Story 3. Secret is safe with us. (And anyone that watched the video…)

It is true what people say that everyone has a story to tell and that stories can come in all shapes, sizes, and delivered through different media outlets. I encourage you to think about your story and by all means share it with someone.

Until next time…