At first, the idea of finding a news story in a designated patch may seem daunting. Especially so if it’s an area you don’t often visit or have any contacts for. But, after completing a patch report myself, I can safely say to you don’t panic. All you need is an open, inquisitive mind and the enthusiasm needed to fully immerse yourself in the role of the reporter.
The first thing I thought to myself when allocated Bournemouth town centre as my patch was how on earth am I going to find a story? But, I will let you into a little secret…everything can be a potential source for a story. What you read, what you see, what you hear, everything. All you have to do is learn to dig a little deeper into leads by asking question after question. Then you will find a fresh and exciting angle to follow up.
As a starting point, why not watch and read the local news relevant to your patch. News often evolves so find a story and then consider what has been missed out and question why. Asking yourself whether certain points in a story that have been left out or unexplained could yield a fresh angle. Perhaps, you feel the story is biased, in which case, finding another perspective could be the next step forward.
In addition to reading local news, you may find a story by observing the national news to see if there is a local angle that applies. Residents are always interested in the local impact of a big story, for instance, during the national elections people were eager to know how particular national policies would affect their own town. A personal example of when this worked for me was during a work placement at Reading Chronicle. I was given the task to browse through the national papers to see if any news could apply to the town. After reading a story about thermometers selling out fast around the country due to the swine flu epidemic, I used my investigative skills to find if this was the case for chemists in Reading. It was- for all of them.
I only found this out through personally speaking to those who managed the chemists. It’s important to remember that people are ‘sources’ so cultivate them and take the effort to get to know them. The more authoritative people you can connect with, the more newsworthy stories you are likely to find. If you can get government officials, police officers, lawyers etc to speak to you then you will have a high chance of writing a credible story. So, get on the phone to as many of these people as possible and ask them what is happening or whether they have heard any particularly interesting news.
From speaking to people you may also find trend stories. Perhaps certain events have happened on numerous occasions to different people? Perhaps burglaries, attacks, missing pets? As a reporter you should start to list similar situations and ask the question ‘why is this frequently happening?’
But the best advice anyone can give you is to just get out there and give it a go. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times, speak to as many people as possible and, above all, think like a reporter. It might be that on your first attempt you don’t find anything but don’t give up. Eventually you will find the lead of all leads which will result in a credible, newsworthy story that everyone will be interested to read.
Picture: google images
In the second week of my journalism unit we were well and truly thrown into the deep end. After just a week of journalism theory we were to become Bournemouth University’s official reporters as we investigated how students really feel about semesterisation. It’s true what they say though, the best way to learn anything is to just have a go… so that’s exactly what we did.
Here is my beginners guide to reporting:
- Firstly, be prepared. Research the facts first, know the subject inside out and read any related articles first. Having a solid understanding and knowledge of Bournemouth University’s semesterisation programme was key.
- Make sure you know what you want to ask interviewees and choose people who will add credibility to your story. I prepared a selection of questions to ask students and lecturers at the university. However, these were only used as guidelines as it was important to respond to the answers given and to find out more about particularly interesting points. You don’t want to miss a crucial angle by skipping to the next question.
- Finding contacts can be difficult. Students were not too difficult to find as I was already at University so I decided to chat to students in the SU bar. Speaking to lecturers was a little bit harder as they work to a busy schedule. To overcome this I researched specific lecturer’s office hours and dropped by to see if they were available to chat. Speaking to those involved with the student union was also useful and they were particularly keen to share their views.
- When reporting make use of all the mediums around you for reaching potential sources- Twitter and Facebook can be great for this.
- Once you’ve found a wide range of sources, getting each of them to speak to you can be even harder. Always be polite and introduce yourself, the subject you would like to discuss and explain why you are interested in their views.
- Remember to take all key details that may be needed in the story. For this example, I took the interviewee’s name, age, degree and year. Also, if you are unsure of a spelling then ask. It is always best to double check all details are correct at this stage than to get it wrong in the report. If a source asks to remain anonymous then you must respect their wishes.
- If possible take a contact detail so that if you have any queries when writing the story you can get back in touch.
- Remain organised. A good reporter should have spoken to many sources before they begin writing so it is important to keep all your notes in order. I also find it is useful to keep track of all the people I have contacted and ticked off those who have responded. It does not look professional to pester those who have already declared they are unwilling or unable to comment on a topic.
- Once you feel you have enough information full of credible sources and a clear, newsworthy angle you are ready to write.
Photo: google images
“Writing has always been my passion. It’s a way to express myself, my feelings and opinions or I can fully emerge myself in another world through creative writing. When I write it feels like a release of emotions and an escape from everyday life.”
This was the answer I prepared when my journalism lecturer asked in our first seminar this year why we had chosen his unit. It was an honest answer but I dreaded being chosen to answer. This was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t want to announce that I actually intended to follow a career on the other side – in PR.
So why did I choose this unit?
Ever since I was a small child I would write. In my pre-school years I would copy out children’s books and then as I became slightly older I would start to write my own little imaginative stories. I can vividly remember the sense of pride and satisfaction I felt as my parents read and praised my work. But it wasn’t just creative writing I attempted. In my final year of primary school I wrote and edited my very own magazine – my first taste of ‘journalism’. And to cut a long story short, the pattern continued throughout school and sixth form as I excelled in both English and Media Studies.
As you can see through this blog and my work portfolio, I still enjoy writing and I believe that continuing and furthering your writing skills stands you in good stead for whichever career path you choose. For instance, PRO’s are often writing press releases and features to send to journalists or using social media platforms, such as blogs, to publicise their company.
As well as in writing, I have a great interest in the media and its powerful influence on our lives. Being part of that in some way fills me with excitement. Whichever profession in the media you choose surely it makes sense to understand how they all work together? The journalism unit is vital in my final year of my degree not only to develop my writing skills but to compliment my other units: public relations, advertising and publishing. I would recommend Bournemouth University’s Communication and Media degree to anyone who has a general love for the media. No other degree would give you such a well-rounded understanding of the integrated professions and how they relate to each other.
If I am to employ successful PR practice in the future I need to understand the role of the journalist in order to work beside them effectively. I need to be aware of their pressures and demands, instead of focussing purely on my own, to form a good working relationship with them. At the same time PR involves writing clear and concise press releases with newsworthy angles which will help save a busy journalist time. In my opinion, having a solid understanding of the role of a journalist is key and vice versa.
Check out the clip below which demonstrates the importance of PROs and journalists understanding each other’s job role: