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Patch Reporting: How to find a newsworthy story

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

February 28, 2011 - Posted by | Blogs, Journalism | , ,

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