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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Staying in the Know

Story ideas were my biggest fear before I started producing for ATVN. When I was an MJ (Multimedia Journalist) a few semesters ago, I would watch the morning meetings in awe. I was always impressed and a little intimidated by the elaborate story ideas that seemed to appear from thin air. How did producers come up with these angles? Where did they find all of the information? Who located all of the amazing people to interview?

Well, now as a producer, I found that coming up with story ideas is not as difficult as I thought. I discovered some helpful tricks that make the process easier and actually a lot of fun!

Team Monday! Tired, but excited to see how some story ideas made it on air!
Team Monday! Tired, but excited to see how some story ideas made it on air!

Every Sunday night before my Monday producing shift I do the following:

Stream NBC Nightly News

Check the budget on City News Service

Look at local news (KNBC, KCAL, KABC and the LA Times)

Read national news coverage (CNN and NBC News)

Look for USC stories in campus publications or in Facebook events and posts 

Search for trending hashtags (Twitter and Facebook)

After I read up on current events, I don’t just stop there. I try to make connections between different news coverage in order to identify patterns. Sometimes I can come up with a story idea just by discovering a trend! For example, if different news outlets are covering separate incidences of hit-and-runs in Los Angeles, it might be worth looking into the overall issue and increasing occurrence of the crime.

However, I would not be able to come up with strong story ideas if I didn’t have the support of my team. Every Sunday night I participate in an online group conversation with other Monday producers. We discuss stories that we think are interesting, and we help each other flesh out angles. I found that stories with a local angle work best. Not only will a story be more interesting and relevant with a localized angle, but it will also have a better chance of having higher quality interviews and B-roll! 

Shortly after my alarm goes off on Monday morning, I slowly wake myself up by listening to NPR. I then read through the latest stories on different news apps. My favorite is the AP News app; they publish a “10 Things to Know for Today” article every day that is very helpful. I also really enjoy reading "theSkimm" emails. These emails are short and sweet, but they also really get to the point and cover the major news stories of the day. I highly recommended subscribing to these daily email blasts. You can do that here.

The steps I've taken to familiarize myself with the news have not only boosted my confidence in morning meetings, but they have also added to my overall happiness. I feel informed about the world around me, and I feel more in tune with the issues and concerns that my peers have. I find myself caring more about stories that I normally wouldn’t have paid much attention to. This feeling is empowering; there’s something about being in the know that really makes a difference. 

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