Find the Best News Stories

Spark great ideas with these 10 prompts

Man standing in a newsroom with TV monitors over his head
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News reporters are often judged on the quality of their news ideas. More than just writing or telling the stories, reporters must constantly pitch new angles or story concepts to their editors. These 10 ways to find news ideas will help you break stories and win the respect of your newsroom managers.

Talk to People

This may seem obvious, but many reporters spend so much time talking to each other or listening to the usual government officials or public relations representatives that they miss talking to real people. Find people at a ball game, charity walk, or grocery store and discover the news ideas that are important to them. The stories they find newsworthy will likely go beyond the usual press conferences and other easy assignments you usually get.

Research Social Media

As a journalist, your social media strategy should involve more than just posting photos on Facebook or tweeting about a car wreck. You have unique tools to uncover what people are talking about with each other.

Seek out the people who represent the audience of your media company and scan their posts or become involved in a conversation. Because more local news can save a TV station or newspaper, this is where you'll find local stories about schools, churches, and talked-about issues.

Look Backward and Forward

Pull out a calendar to see what was making news one year ago, five years ago, or a decade ago. Important anniversaries can make for compelling stories if your community has a chance to look back on a devastating hurricane, hostage drama, or city hall controversy.

Maybe a huge construction project was launched to much fanfare exactly a year ago. Check on the progress. You can also look forward to telling your audience members that they're just a year away from the opening of a new shopping mall that's being built.

Profile Newsmakers

You cover the mayor, police chief, and other dignitaries every day. But there are personal stories to share beyond the routine assignments. The police chief might be an expert golfer. The mayor might have been an only child. Reveal the hearts and minds of the people your audience members believe they already know. You'll find there are compelling stories waiting to be told.

Localize a National Story

Scan the headlines to see what's making news in Washington, New York, or across the country. Even if you're thousands of miles away from the action, you can localize the story to bring it closer to home.

School shootings have sadly become frequent. The next time it happens, investigate what your local school system is doing to keep students safe. A deadly apartment building fire in another city might be the peg for you to check on local fire codes to see if apartment dwellers are any safer in your town.

Share Stories About Schools and Young People

Classrooms are filled with news ideas, from new technology that's replacing textbooks to the latest teaching methods. Attending a parent-teacher association meeting might give you a list of topics to pursue.

Best of all, these types of stories will help you reach your target demographics. Most media companies follow the latest demographic trends, which usually means targeting young families and children—the advertisers' dream audience because it's easier to sell products to them.

Investigate Weather Stories

Sharing news about the weather involves more than just presenting the forecast. Weather stories affect everyone's lives and some people's livelihood. Unusually dry or wet weather can have an economic effect on farmers. The wrong weather can spell trouble for those in the tourism industry who count on sunny, dry days to attract visitors. Unless the weather is absolutely average, there's a story to tell.

Reveal the Stories Behind the Sports Scores

Your sports department can handle highlights and scores. But there's so much more to athletic competition and the desire to win that a news reporter can share.

The use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports could lead you to a little league baseball game or high school football game to talk with parents about whether pro athletes remain desired role models for their children. Sports injuries are a concern for every parent, especially when a child feels pressure to play hurt. Sports can build your audience when you deliver people-driven stories.

Turn Economic Stories on Their Heads

Economic stories have predictable winners and losers, at least according to conventional wisdom. You can challenge that thinking by showing the reverse of what most people think.

Most people will report the "good news" that home prices are down, which is perfect for people looking to buy. You can report that it's not good news for people hoping to sell, especially when their homes are worth less than what they paid for them. The "bad news" that dairy prices are up turns out to be good news for those in the cattle industry. Seek both sides of complex economic stories.

Take a Drive

Sometimes, your own eyes will lead you to great news ideas. Get in your car to cruise the streets in search of stories. You may find abandoned homes being demolished, a long-standing business that's closing its doors or a dangerous intersection that needs an overhaul. These are stories that can't be found online or by working the phones. Get to know the community that you cover.

Even the best reporters sometimes encounter a dry day when they can't come up with news ideas. Commit this list to memory and you'll save time when trying to hunt down something to report.