How to find a news story- a guide for Journalism students.
When you are starting out on a Journalism training course, or in a newsroom, if you don’t know how to find a news story, you are going to struggle. Especially when the practice news days come around and you have to actually start filling bulletins with stories or face dead airtime.
Last week, I spent time lecturing 2nd year Journalism Undergraduates at Swansea University, on news gathering. The process of getting out there and finding things to report on.
We started with a news meeting, a prospects meeting. These happen in newsrooms up and down the land, often several times a day. Looking for ideas, the days agenda, features and top stories. As a journalist you are expected to add to these, be full of ideas and know what is going on. Too often, journalism students are just not across events, so the first step is to set yourself a daily practice. Get disciplined and organised, and start getting great stories.
Here’s what you can do :
- Listen, watch and read the news. You should know what is going on, so make sure you are listening and watching each day. Five live is a great place to start for an overall look at the world. Think beyond your social media feed, and listen and watch different outputs.
- Check the diary. You should keep an active diary of events and things going on locally and more widely. You can check it each week for story and feature ideas. You can find online diaries of national events too. Check them all.
- Use your contacts. Each time to research and cover a story, you will be building up contacts, people who can be a rich source of new stories. If you build good relationships and treat people well, they can often bring you exclusives and advance notice of things going on. Keep their contact details, call them up from time to time to catch up and see if they have anything new going on.
- Create a personal diary and use it to remind yourself of things to check, explore, events coming up etc. Aside from the online ones which set out the national agenda, your own diary can provide a rich source of ideas, that others may not know about. Make a note of things you see and hear when you are out and about, events and ongoing stories.
- Follow ups. Few stories end on the day, there can often be a follow up idea in the weeks and months after it. So explore what stories you’ve already covered and consider if there is a new line, or a development so you can revisit the story.
More ways to find a news story.
- Ask more questions. Call people and talk to them, listen to what they are saying. Always try to find out more. Sometimes a story is hidden away, and you need to question more to find it. Pick up the phone, even if it’s just to be clear on what is going on, or to talk to someone further. It’s amazing what you can find out if you ask more questions.
- Don’t rely on local papers or social media. Granted both can be a good place to seek out stories, but don’t rely solely on their content. Do you own work, talk to those involved and try to find others too. You may just find a different angle or more in depth information.
- Look around you. Sounds so basic this one, but there are stories right under your nose which you probably have not yet learned to notice. For example at Swansea University, one student at the end of my lecturing session on this, found a story on a noticeboard right outside the lecture room – a newly formed choir for people with dementia.
- Be nosey. No more being shy about it, be nosey. Ask about things, speak to people, ask why, who, how. Take an interest in what’s going on, not just online but around you. There are literally stories everywhere if you are open to finding them.
This is just a small taster of my lecturing sessions and workshops on news gathering techniques. To book a private mentoring session, or for more information about my visiting lecturing work, please email