Here are three steps develop killer story ideas:
1) Read about your beat
If you want to be a better reporter, you need to be reading the news. You need to know what’s going on in your beat and who the primary players are.
A few good places to start:
- The Baltimore Sun, City Paper, Baltimore Brew
- WYPR’s Maryland Morning (available as a podcast)
- WEAA’s Marc Steiner Show (available as a podcast)
- WYPR’s Midday (available as a podcast)
- WYPR’s The Signal (available as a podcast)
- The Sun’s Roughly Speaking with Dan Rodricks (available as a podcast)
And if you think this is a lot to keep up with…
Then check out all the news sources that Towson grad and NY Times reporter Brian Stelter reads everyday.
2) Do the legwork
Is your idea really a story? You only find out by doing the legwork.
Here’s a tip: do the legwork during the idea stage, rather than the drafting stage. If you save it for the week of your rough draft, you’ll waste half the week waiting for call backs and will lose the precious time you need to be creative.
So, visit the site and strike up a few conversations. Is there a story here? Who are the main sources? What is their contact info, and when is the best time to contact them? Is there good photo/multimedia potential here? (Remember: people DOING stuff!) If you know this is a story you definitely want to do, you may even want to go ahead and set up your first interview.
3) Develop a strong pitch
Three things to remember about a story pitch:
- It is two or three short sentences that explain why your story is news, who the main characters are, and why this story has drama, conflict, meaning or interest.
- You should have the main legwork done. In other words, you’ve visited the site, you’ve landed contact info, you’ve scoped out image/multimedia ideas, and you may even have an interview set up.
- You’ve started gathering information on the topic and are able to answer any questions the editor asks.