3 questions every story should answer

3 questions

A story, is a story, is a story, right? Well, sorta.

Surely, every story is different — different angles, different sources, different topics. However, every well told story in journalism shares something big in common. They all answer three big questions — why? what’s next? and what’s going on here besides what’s going on here.

I know that I’ve talked to a few of you during coaching about these three questions, but I wanted to make sure that all of you 1) saw this awesome poster I made! (Thank you Canva) 2.) know about the importance of these questions

Why?

This is always the big question and should always be on your list of questions for sources. A student was given a citation? Why? A new group is starting on campus? Why?

You know those kids who just keep asking why just because they can (or maybe because they felt like annoying their parents or siblings). They’re on to something BIG!

What’s next? 

This is a question that you should ask your sources all the time. Now that the festival, or whatever event, is over, what’s next for you? You should always ask yourselves that question when it comes to covering stories. What’s the next story? What else do we need to find out about?

Remember during training last week, we talked about what is missing. Sometimes the what’s next part of the story is what is missing. Make sure this question is answered at all times.

What’s going on here besides what’s going on here? 

This wonderful question comes from my adviser when I was sitting where you are now. Professor Ted Stanton (who I still call Professor Ted Stanton) worked for the Corpus Christi Caller Times and the Wall Street Journal before becoming editor-in-chief at a newspaper in Moscow, ID.

One of his best pieces of advice to me and others was find out what’s going on here besides what’s going on here. Now this could mean several things.

1.) Investigative. If something smells fishy, it because it probably is. Time to ask some hard questions and ask for some documents.

2.) This says something about how people live their lives. It could mean a trend piece or an slice of life. Either way, it’s a story waiting to be told.

3.) Behind the scenes. This means that the people behind the scenes or in the shadows aren’t being reported on. Find those people because their stories are amazing and need to be told.

Onward and upward!

 

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