Finding story ideas

On Wednesday, Arlington reporter John Harden’s coaching session turned into a brainstorming session. Here’s John to tell you how it turned out:

Step one: Think of eight to 10 topics you can relate to your beat. For example, when I think of “Arlingfun,” I think about road conditions, crime near campus, construction and city hall.

Step two: Close your eyes and use word associations to describe each topic. Don’t think too hard. Just write. Example: I take the topic road conditions and think of things that are affected by it. Ex: The SEC is going to be built on the east side of campus, an area that has the worst road condition in Arlington.

Some of the ideas John came up with.

Step three: Group like items/terms/phrases. Think of story ideas that can come from each group and write them down.  Ex: The SEC is going near an area that has poor road conditions?  What is the city and UTA doing to fix this?

Step four: Start reporting.

Yesterday, I spent less than an hour with Beth and wrote down my beat report for the entire semester.

Every beat can be overwhelming but following the 4 steps above can help you stay organized. With Beth’s help, I realized what’s most important on my beat. The best part about the brainstorming session was that all the ideas came from my head. Beth only wrote down what I said and helped to group them.

It’s something Beth wants to do with every reporter and editor. All you have to do is say when.

–  John Harden

Beth here: If anyone wants to try this type of word association brainstorming, let me know. My role is just to write down what you say – you guys come up with the ideas. See me to set up a time.


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