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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Finding Stories Can Be Easy If You Just Talk To People

Each week, as producers for ATVN, we have to turn in package ideas and possible story ideas for the newscast. It has been getting easier each week to do both, but I'm still trying to get the hang of pitching worthy package ideas that are relevant and important to viewers.    

This week for the newscast, I pitched a story about a band at a local school, Foshay Learning Center, that needs help raising money to get the chance to perform in Paris. I found this story on Instagram through Elex Michaelson, a reporter at ABC7. He posted a picture with some of the students in the band and teased the story for ABC7 in his caption. We didn't end up doing this package idea, but I think other, more important, stories took priority for the newscast.  

I also pitched the idea to do a package on Ash Wednesday. One thing I didn't think about was that Ash Wednesday is something that happens every year, so the story can't just be the religious event. It needs to be about something more than that. I needed to find an interesting angle or hook, like why someone is giving up something specific in their life for lent. Is it because of a certain event that has happened to them recently? That's something that could potentially be turned into a package but Ash Wednesday by itself isn't just the story. We discussed this in class on Thursday and after we finished the conversation, it made a lot more sense to me. 

Just talking to people in line at the grocery store or in line at Starbucks is one of the most effective ways to get story ideas. If someone is talking about it, then many other people may also be talking about it or care about it. Stories don't have to be found on the budget, which is a list of local events happening in the city. In fact, I think the best stories are the ones you get just from asking someone how their day is going or what is going on in their life and actually listening to them. It's definitely something I need to work on myself. Even just asking students in line waiting for coffee how they are doing could turn itself into a story. This gives viewers the chance to relate to an actual person rather than an event.

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