From Classroom to Newsroom: Finding story ideas

So, you just got your new job in a new city and your new boss expects you to have new story ideas on a daily basis — lots of them.

“We are supposed to have three “leadable” stories every day,” says Allison Croghan, who got a reporting job at KSN/KODE in Joplin after graduating from college this past May.

Croghan says she’s always talking to other reporters and photographers about how they get their story ideas to see what she can learn from them.

“One of the photographers is very good about staying after the interviews and chatting with people. When I first started, it was tough for me because I needed all the extra time at the station to write and put the story together, but I quickly learned how valuable those extra few minutes are,” Croghan says. “Staying 20 minutes after an interview can provide me with a couple more great story ideas.”

Croghan also suggests that journalists need to develop a “mindset,” which helps them recognize a good story idea when they hear it.

“For example, when I’m out with friends, I like to listen to what the people are talking about. If people are talking about something, it usually means it’s important to them,” says Croghan.

She says she also writes all her ideas down.

“In case a story falls through, I have a back-up plan,” Croghan says.

That back-up plan is critically important since the transition from classroom to newsroom generally comes with a significant increase in reporting workload.

“We do one package and two separate VO/SOTs. Since we are a duopoly, we have two stations under one roof. I’ll have to do a separate VO/SOT for my package, so it can air on the other station as well,” says Croghan.  “So, essentially I’m writing four separate stories every day.”

Croghan says she sometimes goes live for the station’s 4 o’clock talk show and then does a live shot during the 6 p.m. newscast.

“I’m going, going, going literally from about 9 a.m. until I go live. Then I have to post my stories to the Web.  I don’t have much downtime, but I like it that way because I’m never bored. Every day is a new adventure! Then I go home, cook dinner, go to sleep and do it all over again.”

From “Classroom to Newsroom” is part of an occasional series we will post about recent graduates making their way in the news business.


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