Finding stories is tough. It does get easier the more you do it.
I think the best stories often come from just walking around looking and listening; speaking to people. But students like to use social media, so I have a list on my Twitter account called Story Sources.
It can be a useful place to look for inspiration. Sometimes. Most of the time it’s full of virtue-signalling garbage — this is Twitter after all — but every now and again there’s something with potential. Below I’ve picked a few ideas out and explained how I would go about developing the story if I was a student journalist. Learning to cover simple stories like these will develop your confidence, so that you can go on to do more challenging things later.
This is a straightforward story to cover. Barclays want to close their branch in Whitchurch, which is a suburb in the north of Cardiff. A petition has been started to stop the closure. All I need to do is find somebody who has been responsible for starting the petition and some exterior pictures of the branch that is being closed. For balance, I need to include a line from Barclays. They won’t do an interview with a student journalist, but they will have said things to the media about their programme of bank closures. They are happening all over the country. Extra things to have might be an interview with the local councillor; a business owner who uses the bank and a vox pop of local residents. Getting a bit more interesting, I might try to find an academic who thinks these sort of closures are inevitable as the economy moves online.
This is another relatively straightforward story to cover. The Fire and Rescue service have announced that they will make each of their stations a “safe haven” where people can go if they are in some sort of difficulty. There’s no real conflict here: nobody would think this is a bad idea. But it is addressing a problem in society and that makes it newsworthy. Since they want publicity for their scheme, I suspect they might talk to a student journalist. The obvious questions are how does the scheme work and why are you doing it? The pictures would be interior and exterior shots of a fire station. Easy!
So here we have a story in which an organisation has launched a petition to get Cardiff Council to introduce more safe cycle stores. Since the organisation presumably wants people to sign the petition and has tweeted about it, I think it’s reasonable to assume they will do an interview.
Pictures are quite easy. I just need to find an existing cycle store to film and then get lots of shots of bikes that are locked up in not so safe ways.
Next I need a real cyclist. A vox pop would be one way of doing this, but much better to find — for example — somebody who cycles to work and has to leave their bike locked up outside. Perhaps the organisation could help me with that. Otherwise, I could look to see who has retweeted this tweet, or just talk to people on the street.
Finally, I would need to think about a response from Cardiff Council. First thing to do is to see if they have already said stuff about safe cycle stores to other news organisations – Google “Cardiff Council safe cycle” and click on the News tab to do this. If they’ve said stuff I could think about putting that into the script for balance. Next I would look to see if any councillors have been supportive of the campaign — maybe start by asking Cardiff Cycle City. If so, I’d try to interview them. I don’t think there is much point approaching the council press office for an interview on a story like this.
This is a story from Llandaff, a pretty suburb of Cardiff. One shop — Halls — has tweeted to congratulate another shop — Garlands — on its 30th anniversary. This isn’t exactly earth-shattering stuff, you might think, but if I could get an interview with the people who run Garlands to talk about their anniversary, I would make sure I asked a few questions like “What are your biggest challenges right now?” or “Do you feel you get enough support from the local council and the Welsh government? or “What do businesses in Llandaff need?” I think there’s a reasonable chance they would say something interesting and that would give me a little story, with some nice pictures of the inside and outside of the shop and a second interview maybe with a loyal customer. And the rest of the story would be a celebration of a successful business in difficult times.
This is relatively easy. I’d get in touch with Penarth Lifeboat to find out the details and ask whether four call-outs in a weekend is above average. They are bound to have a message about people going out on the water safely and that could be the way to get an interview. Good pictures of the lifeboat.
It’s a bit annoying that this survey of mushrooms in a well known Cardiff cemetery has already happened. But I would still consider getting in touch with Plantlife Cymru to see if they will talk. The cemetery has its own Twitter account, so they will presumably say something about it and I’d use the interview to ask about what problems/challenges they are facing. For a third interview, maybe there’s a mushroom expert at Cardiff university? Plantlife Cymru would know. Pictures of the cemetery and the mushrooms — if I can find any. Potentially a nice feature, but it would obviously have been better if I could have been there when they did the survey.