We certainly live in a brave new world of journalism. There’s a plethora of resources, tools, legislation (FOI is just one example), all of which have added to the journalist’s armoury.
But the advent of social media and IT based journalism has led to many ignoring some of the fundamental principles of good journalism: talking to real people and opening your eyes in the outside world.
I know some “journalists” whose day consists of ten hours behind a computer, reading the wire copy, digesting pressers, and listening to the local blue light media line. It’s not a great cocktail for creating original stories.
So…. Here are my top five tips for generating original journalism away from the computer.
- Take a bus ride: sit on the top deck of a bus and watch the world below you. I defy anyone not to spot something that could give a story idea or a lead.
- When out on a story speaking to a contributor ask this question: what’s the best story you know about which you haven’t seen in the papers or on TV? I pretty much guarantee that 90% of the time you’ll get a useful lead.
- Taxi drivers are a mine of useful leads: two of my most successful stories have come from conversations with taxi drivers. Engage them in conversation - they’re bound to give you something you can work with
- Network: go to business lunches and breakfasts and generate a wide network of contacts – as you build more contacts you build trust. And trust is absolutely key to getting the biggest stories.
- Work your contacts! Once you’ve established a network of useful contacts stay in touch That person who once gave you a story three years ago is much more likely to give you more if you have stayed in regular contact.
Much of original journalism works on the same principles of good salesmanship: building trust and developing good contacts. None of that can be done behind a computer screen.
I love the new tools we have at our disposal to help develop stories. I’m a big fan of twitter. But remember: thousands of journos around the world are data scraping for exactly the same reasons that you are.
Not everyone is having a quiet conversation over a pint with that key contact….
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