Finding story ideas and covering communities

Advice from Advocate Magazine Dallas Editor (and Shorthorn ex) Emily Toman. She visited the newsroom Oct. 14.

–       Go sit on a bench and listen to what people are talking about around you. That’s what you should write about.

–       Keep in mind that at The Shorthorn, you’re essentially a community or hyper-local publication. You’re it for coverage … so small things matter, too.

–       Look for the unexpected.

–       Explore subcultures: gaming, cycling – stories exist within each. Think about your interests and explore them.

–       Go to coffee shops, bars … other places where people on your beat hang out. You’ll see the same people over and over and be able to form relationships with them.

–       Try something new: Take a different route, attend a club meeting you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise.

–       Every time you meet a person, ask them – just as a person – what they want to read about. Ask, “what do you really want to know more about?” Level with people – what do you want to know about the world around you?

–       The day-to-day stories can seem like a grind. Try to think about different angles within that story. Every person involved could be a story with that you can slice out.

–       Meetings: In addition to listening to the meeting and reporting it, pay attention to what people are talking about (side conversations, reactions, etc.). Talk to people.

–       Try not to have tunnel vision. Who is there? Who has a different stake in it?

–       Ask, ask, ask. Stick with it.

–       Everyone has a story. Don’t be a story snob.

–       Cultivate sources/friends everywhere. Get involved with groups. Be involved with the community you cover.

–       Red obits, fliers, classifieds…these all can include story ideas that are waiting to be told.

–       There’s no magic formula: Stories are staring you in the ace.

–       Covering events: Get the stories behind the event – people put it together.

–       Ask yourself: Who would ever _________? Odd jobs, strange volunteer work, etc. Pose those questions and seek out the answers. Go look for them.

–       Focus on a person and his or her personality. People in the shadows have the most interesting stories.

–       Think of events as communities – issues that affect the community and the assets of their culture.

 Above all else: You must read other people’s work. Inspiration has to come from somewhere.


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