Summer is notoriously slow for news. Sure, breaking news and summer festivals will eat up some of the local newshole. But schools are out. Sources (and colleagues) are on vacation. Elections are still months away. And you can only write so much about the weather before you and your readers give up caring or tracking how little rain or how much sunshine your has community received.
Even though important work still takes place and is worth reporting as it happens in the summer months, it’s a good idea to have some story ideas in your back pocket to get you through the news drought. Think of it as insurance against being the reporter handed the next weather story. The editor will hesitate if you can say, “Oh, well actually I was working on (or planning to work on) that story about X-awesome-idea…”
So as you craft your summer story budget, here are five places to watch for tips and good story examples that may inspire your own pieces:
• Investigative Reporters And Editors — While joining this group gives you a multitude of resources, from tipsheets to training, listservs to databases, there’s still plenty you can glean just from following their blogs, including my favorite Extra Extra which links to great recent investigative stories.
• Society of Professional Journalists — Another great group to belong to, but one you can can also gather ideas from even without paying upfront. The local associations and national parent group hand out dozens of awards to the best stories each year, which is a good place to read great work to inspire your own. But they also have the Journalist’s Toolbox and a number of strong blogs you’ll find tips, tricks and good ideas from.
• Reynolds Center for Business Journalism — This group does a great idea of rounding up excellent story ideas and pushing out tips and recent stories/”How They Did It” looks at stories on its site and blog. Though they focus mainly on the business journalists, think about how many other topics intersect with business. Health care, education, local government contracts, etc. all cross paths. You can definitely find good ideas for your community — and tips to execute them.
• Association of Health Care Journalists — This organization does a good job of highlighting the stories behind the work its members, reporters on the health beat, write about. They also track recent studies, data and plenty of other stories and tools on their blog.
• Education Writers Association — This beat-specific writers association maintains a few blogs worth following for background and topic ideas, The Educated Reporter and Ed Beat. You also should check out the “Resource Center” page and click through to the “Reporter Stories” tab in each topic of interest to read stories by other reporters in those areas. Some of the links are to older stories, but there’s lots of good work gets linked here and even older stories could be revisited.
Of course there are probably hundreds more go-to places, so don’t limit yourself to these by any means. Your parent company, for instance, might compile regular lists of good stories. Definitely find news associations on your beat or in your state, to follow. And don’t forget to look for story ideas on Twitter and other social networks.
YOUR TURN: Please share your go-to source for good stories to read or inspire your own work in the comments or @10000Words on Twitter.