It’s a new year. You’re feeling all refreshed. And you’re ready to again dig for some great stories.
But what if you don’t know where to start?
Maybe you’re dreading the morning meeting lately because it seems like not much is happening in your market.
Here’s what I suggest: Reconnect with sources you’ve “neglected” a bit over the last six months or so. You’re asking literally everyone you interview for business cards or other contact information, right? You’re keeping that info in a desk drawer or in a file on your computer, right?
Well, spend an hour digging through there looking for the great contacts who may have slipped your mind as you moved on to other pressing news stories.
Give them a call. Tell them you want to catch-up and you’re sorry it’s been so long since he or she has heard from you. Be genuine. Be relaxed with them. Don’t have your crazy I-am-a-news-reporter-and-I-need-a-package-idea-NOW voice on!
Sometimes, enduring the equivalent of writer’s block, I’ll literally flip through business cards trying to come up with the inspiration for a story — or to remind myself about a story I should follow-up on.
I’m kind of old school. I still like business cards. There’s something about seeing that logo next to the name that really refreshes my memory. (Yes, I’m horrible with names if I’ve only interviewed someone once.)
Here’s another tip: As you’re putting those award entries together this month (why must so many of them be due so close to the beginning of the year anyway?) think about follow-ups to these stories that you could be doing.
Every time someone does research on TV news audiences, it seems they find news consumers complaining that we don’t do enough follow-ups. Whatever happened to…? They want to know.
That company that promised 50 new jobs back in November? Have they hired everyone they need? How far along are they before they open-up shop?
Remember that congressman in your district who announced he’s retiring rather than running for re-election? Is he still showing-up for votes in Washington? Or is he out golfing on taxpayer time?
And don’t forget all of those families you focused on over the holidays who are barely scraping by because the mother and father have both lost their jobs. How are they making it now that it’s not the “season of giving” anymore? How are charities in your market doing?
As we were putting this article to bed, Poynter’s Al Tompkins wrote a nice blog post pointing to another great source of story ideas: the people you work with. He shows two examples where tips from colleagues led reporters to win 2012 Alfred duPont Awards.
“The lesson here is clear,” writes Tompkins, “listen to everyone.”
Lastly, you can also get a lot of inspiration from Twitter. As a courtesy to your audience, I recommend following back every person in your viewing area who follows you. It’s the nice thing to do. After all, you make money because they watch you. (Or you get fired if they don’t.)
So scroll through your “all friends” feed on Tweetdeck and see what people in your area are talking about. If they’re talking about it is — at least by one definition — news.
Matthew Nordin is a morning anchor/investigative reporter at Raycom Media’s NBC affiliate in Myrtle Beach, WMBF News. Feel free to chat with him on Twitter @MatthewNordin.