Learning to look
Four weeks into my Broadcast Journalism course at City and already the learning curve has been steep. We’ve produced a radio programme, conducted an interview for radio, filmed and edited a package for TV and produced a short studio based show, plus various bits of voice coaching and media law.
And although some stuff I know already, there’s been shedloads (like copy writing) that I thought I was good at, but actually I don’t come close yet.
The most important thing I’ve learned so far though has been how to look for news. Sounds simple really, but I went 3 years at RaW and WTV at Warwick University where we struggled to find 2 or 3 decent news stories a week. In one brainstorming session last week, we came up with about 30.
There are loads of sources that journalists use to find news stories: the emergency services, contacts in specific fields, newswires (stories sent by big news agencies like Reuters), press releases, other media and diary events. Not to mention the things that just ‘happen.’
But I’ve leant the best source a journo can use is his/her own eyes and ears. It’s a cliche straight outta the fifties, but it’s true. Posters and notices in shop windows, long queues, overflowing carparks, litter, flyers that get handed to you…they all can be turned into stories. My favourite one is the “big writ small” story, where you make national news relevant to your patch.
I once heard about an enterprising radio journalist in Stratford-Upon-Avon who popped into a Starbucks one day before work to find her coffee served in a paper cup. When she asked why, she was told they had to resort to using paper cups because people kept stealing the crockery….bam! Brilliant piece of original journalism.
I suspect some journalists slip into the lazy re-writing of press releases but you can’t beat original stories. Already for this coming week I’ve got 5 pitches, including a missing woman, a fundraising week for orphans and obesity in North London. Not the greatest, but all me….