How to find stories

On the Broadcast News pathway we put a lot of emphasis on you finding your own stories for your programmes and your website Cardiff News Plus. But finding stories can be tough — especially if you’re in a foreign country. So here are some tips to help you:

  • Find out who the local councillor is. Follow him/her on Twitter. See who he/she is following. Look at what he/she is saying.
  • Once you make contact with somebody, ask them to lead you to other people. Ask questions like “What else is going on in your neighbourhood?” or “Who else should I be talking to…?” Remember, the best stories generally come from people telling you things. The sooner you step away from your smartphone, meet people and talk to them, the easier it will be to find stories.
  • Read the local Cardiff newspaper every day. It’s called The South Wales Echo. There will be a copy by the Social Staircase in JOMEC. There is a website but don’t rely on it — lots of stories appear in the paper but never make it on to the website.
  • There are also local newspapers for Barry and Penarth. The Barry and District News and the Penarth Times. Again both have websites, but you’ll find more stories in the physical newspaper. It’s also worth looking at The National — a new news website for Wales.
  • You might also want to look at what your fellow students are up to: CJS News is the site for the UK Broadcast MA students and The Cardiffian is the site for the UK News students.
  • Note that you can’t simply report a story as it has been reported somewhere else. You have to “move it on” — in other words find the latest development in the story. But this is not as difficult as it sounds. Stories never stand still. The story will have changed since it was reported. Generally, all you have to do is ask the right person “What’s the latest?”
  • The Welsh Parliament has a Petitions Committee, which looks at petitions which have been created by people in Wales wanting some sort of change. Once a petition has attracted 500 signatures it is discussed by the politicians.

Activity: Look at the current list of petitions. Which would make a good story for Cardiff News Plus. Why?

  • Social media can sometimes be a good source for stories. Facebook is very searchable for local campaigns, groups etc. When joining groups you should be clear to other members that you are a student journalist. On Twitter, I have created a list called Story Sources. See what’s happening on there. Most of the tweets won’t be much use, but sometimes there will be something that is newsworthy. More on all of that here.
  • Set up a Google alert for e.g. your patch — or any subject you’re interested in covering. (This is something you should definitely do for your major project).
  • You can use this site to find out who local councillors and MPs are (you just need a postcode). Note: I don’t recommend you use this site to actually contact councillors. Better to use their email address. Please don’t contact councillors who are cabinet members directly. To get an interview with these people, you need to go through the council’s press office. Ask me for help. Also, note that MPs generally don’t give interviews to student journalists. If you want to contact an MP, let me know.