Internet story-searching is in, but don’t lose sight of seeking stories the ‘old-fashioned’ way

11 Feb

Writers of all kinds have drawn inspiration from the world around them for centuries. Poets will never cease to be inspired by the natural world, novelists can always look to their own lives and the lives of people around them for story lines, and so long as there are people to create news, journalists will never run out of news stories to write.

But how will finding news story ideas change in the age of instant information?

As journalism adapts to changes in technology, reporters should realize that not everything has to change. There’s no substitute for on-the-ground observation — not every aspect of a story can be absorbed from a Google search. Mark Glaser of MediaShift put together lists of “The Way It Was,” “The Way It Is” and “The Way It Will Be” for journalists,  noting ways in which the processes of reporting then and now differ. The lists, though they get increasingly longer, are not altogether different; each one, for example, includes an editing process, discussion of the story idea and feedback from readers. Also included is the go-out-and-get-it reporting technique, meaning if it’s possible to physically visit a place connected to a story, the reporter should do so.

Search engines and social media make the reporting process easier in many ways for journalists, including coming up with story ideas. Google isn’t everything, however — story ideas still abound outside the Internet, and reporters should always have their eyes and ears open when searching for a story.

Sites such as reddit can be fantastic for following what the Internet is buzzing about, and journalists should, at the very least, be somewhat familiar with how to use them. Story ideas can blossom from posts that seem random and strange to writers but that could be pertinent and relevant to readers. There is, however, an issue of quality control when looking for ideas and sources on the Internet. Before going ahead with an idea or taking an interview with a person via email, reporters should vet sources to ensure the information they gather isn’t completely arbitrary.

Social media can also be useful in fleshing out story ideas. Once an idea is agreed upon by an editor, a reporter can post it to a network and get feedback from readers and gauge interest. If, for example, a reporter is writing about the local economy, he or she can make sure there will be an interested audience for the story beforehand. Readers can add to the story and offer different perspectives, making for a more well-rounded story overall.

As journalism professors often remind their students, story ideas are everywhere — the trick is spotting them. Methods of finding ideas are changing to accommodate the Internet, but keeping your eyes open when you’re out in the world is a tried-and-true method of finding stories that matter to readers that will always be relevant, no matter what.


One Response to “Internet story-searching is in, but don’t lose sight of seeking stories the ‘old-fashioned’ way”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers February 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Excellent re Rubric – well written and edited.
    However, is it not Reddit ?

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