Stories are out there, you just need to know where to look

15 Feb

Stories are everywhere. You just have to know where to look and how to use them.

When I took UF’s dreaded Reporting class two years ago, I loathed the idea of looking for story ideas. Although I ended up barely passing the class, if I could have done it over again, I would have looked at the best place to find story ideas: everywhere. The trickiest part for me was localizing a story.

You can usually find story ideas just by talking to your friends. If they know of a cool concert going on, or even if they have a friend who owns an exotic animal, you’ve got a story. If you don’t have any friends, there are many other public places you can go to that have bulletin boards chock full of story ideas.

Fortunately, websites like Reddit are really great tools for finding story ideas and just news stories in general. My boyfriend, a frequent Redditor, browses the subreddit “r/politics” to keep up to date on the 2012 presidential election and other happenings in Washington, D.C. Other sites, such as Digg.com , compile stories from many different newspapers’ websites, separates them into categories (much like Reddit’s “subreddits”) and lets users comment on them. If you’re looking for a story idea, it is always a good idea to localize stories found on these websites. Even Facebook is a great source for stories: Facebook “pages” of different newspapers talk about stories they’ve published. These can be great to localize! Twitter is especially good to use for finding stories. The CNN Breaking News  account (where I get a lot of my news) constantly has top stories reporters can localize.

MediaShift blogger Mark Glaser’s version  of how journalists will write stories in the future consists of using social networking sites like Reddit and Digg, but regularly, almost replacing on of the crucial jobs of the editor and reporter. There will be even more user/reader participation as well. Sites like Poynter are even providing story ideas for journalists that they can localize.  These sites are basically doing the work for us! It will be exciting to see if the future of finding stories turns out the way Glaser predicts.

However, once you do have a story idea, it is important that you do any necessary research for it. Sources will appreciate that you took the time out to look into what you’re reporting on. John Wihbey of Journalist’s Resource says thorough research can make for a thought-out, well-written piece, and he actually provides great resources to help budding reporters out with this. In addition, Al Tompkins of Poynter also explains different terminology related to such topics as economics, politics or whatever else you are writing about, because we know every now and then we get stories on a subject we are pretty much clueless on. If we journalists are more informed on the subjects we are writing about, we will have less fact errors in our stories, therefore raising our credibility as reporters.

Conclusion: You don’t really have an excuse to come back to your editor without any ideas. If you ever groan, “I can’t find a story!” that’s just (excuse my language) bullshit.

 

Story Ideas (these would be for a Gainesville, Fla. newspaper):

1. I recently read a story about CNN poll stating that Mitt Romney’s popularity is fading. Since he won the Florida primary, I could localize this by interviewing the chairman of the Alachua County Republicans and political science professors who specialize in elections at UF, asking them why they think this is and what this could mean for Romney’s campaign. Since Gainesville is in Alachua County, a blue county in a sea of red ones, I think this would be interesting to Gainesville citizens. The 2012 election is an ongoing spewer of news right now, and people are trying to determine who would be the best Republican candidate to run against President Obama. There would probably just be an AP photo of Romney, since this is more of a national story. It could probably be about 10 inches. I’m not sure how different the story could look online, except maybe there could be a video in which Gainesville citizens are asked questions on how they feel about Romney running for the Republican candidacy.

2. A feature on hazing. With the recent Alpha Phi Alpha hazing incident, in addition to the FAMU hazing that ended in a student’s death,   I think a story on how hazing affects fraternity (and maybe even sorority) life at UF. Even though this could be a controversial story, since technically hazing is prohibited in any sort of Greek life at UF, this may be able to help uncover which houses are hazing and how it can be stopped. Among people interviewed could be the student who was hazed at UF, Bernie Machen, the president of the UFIC (Interfraternity Council) and certain members of fraternities. Hopefully through these brothers we could hear about how hazing has affected them as people and how serious of an issue it is. This would be a bit of a longer story, maybe about 20 inches, and could include pictures of Greek houses, since the fraternities probably wouldn’t let a reporter in on their brotherly activities. Maybe we could include half the story in print and then show the rest of the story on the newspaper’s website so people would be forced to check out our online features. These could include a video slideshow of pictures of fraternity activities with voiceover from an interviewee.

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