Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I have learned a lot about coming up with story ideas in my second year of Creative Communications. For example, in Broadcast Journalism, I cannot simply put down the first story idea that comes to me. I have to consider what I will use for b-roll, who I will interview, whether the story will make an interesting one visually, and if I can arrange to pull the story off in time for it to be aired (or, so far this year, submitted to the instructor by the deadline).

While I, as a student, haven’t talked or thought about story ideas as much in regular journalism class as I have in broadcast journalism class, I have still considered it, and I feel as though my idea about how to find a story has changed.

While I never saw the value in ripping off stories from larger media outlets, such as the Freep or the Sun, I have developed some techniques that might appear basic to everyone but are news to me. I call them my “skills as an observer.”

The first skill as an observer I have developed is looking around at thing when I am walking, rather than texting on my cell phone or going on facebook. It is very surprising how much I actually notice when I really give things a good look and my eyes are open and all of that.

For example, in the summertime I was walking on Main Street by the Seven Eleven that’s a few blocks away from my house and I guess I decided to be more observant than usual that day. I noticed the Manitoba Clothing Company and for whatever reason, I stopped in front of it and just stared into the window. The mannequins in there had been figures in the backdrop for my entire life; I remember not noticing them as I walked by thousands of times with my mother when I was a kid, and later, by myself. I decided to go in and ask some questions about this place for the first time in my 21 years on earth. 

I found out that in addition to having a sweet selection of deadstock, high-waist Levi’s from the 70s, the company was closing. It had been open since 1944 and used to make uniforms for a whole bunch of city services and stuff (the Winnipeg Police Force, etc.) until outsourcing basically put them out of business. They had a whole factory upstairs that the owner told me used to be filled with forty workers, and now can only afford to employ seven. There were old men that still hung around there that had been working there since being sixteen. For those people, it was like the end of an era, or a bunch of eras. Now that’s a story.

The second skill I learned as an observer is to listen carefully to what people say. This includes reading things carefully, too.

And even if it looks weird, carry a notepad wherever you go. That way, when you are trying to brainstorm story ideas one day before your broadcast J class, you can just get out your notepad and look what you have written in there, waiting to be reported.  

Those are just a few tricks I’ve learned about finding story ideas. You might find, as I have, that using observational skills will not only make you a better journalist, but it will make you acutely aware of your surroundings and that might make your life easier. It’s made mine easier, and I generally feel better about myself, too. It might even make you a better friend or girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever you are. Sweet.

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