Staff writers at The Highlander, particularly our valued newbies, have just as much trouble coming up with story ideas as high school (and even professional) journalists sometimes have. It is difficult when we rush from class to activity to consider that something in our day-to-day lives could be newsworthy.
But something is. Usually, many things are.
We simply have to expand our thinking. Instead of accepting our world at face value, ask one question: why? Why are there 45 football players on the team this year? How many were there last year? Look for trends because that’s where a story is hiding. You can apply the same strategy to club membership. What about student Key Club projects? Do they tend to benefit the same types of organizations or groups, or have they been varied over time? How do project choices differ from those of five years ago?
Here’s another tip: Read the news. If you like sports, read that. Find a national story that interests you and localize it. For example, now that the Arizona Cardinals have demonstrated that women can serve as coaches in the NFL, has your school’s coaching staff ever considered hiring a woman? Have they ever received an application from a female football coach? Do they think women in football coaching positions might face challenges?
If you are looking for ideas for broadcast shows, remember that the interview is content king. Everyone is interesting, and a skillful interviewer can uncover little tidbits that lead to captivating interviews. For example, does a faculty member knit or run marathons or bake? Ask her to describe her first experience with knitting, and she will likely tell you wonderfully personal details such as how her mother used to knit in doctors’ offices to calm herself, and she took up the hobby when she started teaching. Knitting clears her mind to make her perform better in the classroom.
Avoid closed-ended questions, which are questions that lead to “yes,” “no,” or very short answers.
For example, some closed-ended questions include, “What is your favorite color?” or, “How old were you when you started gymnastics?” and, “Do you like cold weather?”.
Instead, ask probing, open-ended questions, such as:
- “Explain how you became interested in…”
- “Describe what you learned from…”
- “Tell me about a specific time (when you were knitting, running, baking) that was especially meaningful to you.”
Finally, avoid thinking about the next question that you might ask and listen! When we actively listen and process information that our interview subjects share, we are able to ask great follow-up questions that prompt them to share even more.
I hope those easy tips help you to generate interesting and useful stories. (Our Editor-in-Chief, Courtney Garloff, is confident they will.)
_ _ _
About the author: Melissa Sgroi, Ed.D., is Chair of the Communications Department at Misericordia University. To learn more about Communications at Misericordia University, visit misericordia.edu/communications or request more information.