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Good Story Ideas

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Turfwriter86, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. Turfwriter86

    Turfwriter86 New Member

    Longtime lurker, first time poster. Frustrated with relatively rote feature subjects. Seems like I'm writing about the same figures and topics over and over again = boring! Editors no help. Any suggestions for finding good story ideas like the S.L. Price SI piece or Wright Thompson's "Haunted by Horns?"
  2. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Sports only? Let's assume the answer is no.

    Foodies love any tidbit about celebrity chefs and restaurants and their numbers are growing.

    Grant Achatz is the Chef/Owner of Alinea in Chicago, considered by many to be the best restaurant in the country and recently awarded three stars by Michelin.

    A Chicago magazine recently named three local chefs to be chefs "to be on the look out for in 2011" or something like that.

    All three were former chefs for Achatz.

    They all took to twitter to congratulate themselves and it was suggested that they all get together for dinner.

    Achatz has proposed a road trip to the Townhouse in Chilhowie, Virginia which is helmed by another former Alinea sous-chef.


    I think a reporter serving as a fly on the wall for this trip could come away with an awesome story -- maybe a magazine length article or even a book.

    Sort of reminds me of The Teammates (though no one is dying) or the story behind the musical Million Dollar Quartet.

    Check out Achatz twitter feed for the whole story: http://twitter.com/#!/gachatz
  3. EagleMorph

    EagleMorph Member

    Find better editors who are willing to push you to do quality stories. The stories are right in front of you.

    If you're talking about S.L. Price's recently story on Aliquippa, it's not a new story. Writers at the Beaver County Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have done variations on it before. What Price did was make it fresh and new again, a long-form version that the previous publications either didn't have the chops, space, or distance from the subject to do.

    Price's ability to enter in as a third party made the story unique again, even to those intensely familiar to the situation.

    Being an excellent writer doesn't mean having everything fall into your lap. Stories don't jump up and yell, "PICK ME!" You have to know where to look.
  4. Journalist21

    Journalist21 Member

    Keep your eyes open to any good stories. I once had a story, which I found when I was surfing the internet, where a local kid was taking part in an old-time baseball game, and he was wearing Johnny Pesky's jersey. The biggest piece of advice I can give is that good ideas for feature stories usually come from the reporter.

    Here's a link to an old Poynter Institute chat with Roy Peter Clark. It's on how to find new and interesting story ideas, so it should help you out.

  5. ringer

    ringer Member

    Read everything you can and talk to people.

    If you need fresh ideas, look in sports you've never covered. Everything might seem interesting because it will seem new to you.
  6. Turfwriter86

    Turfwriter86 New Member

    Thanks everyone. Great feedback and I really appreciate it. Ringer, definitely feeling that sports I've never covered urge. And Journo21, the Poynter chat is an EXCELLENT resource, thanks for that!
  7. This is the kind of advice you just can't get anywhere else.
  8. Flip Wilson

    Flip Wilson Well-Known Member

    I found out about a local kid who had won a national award in archery by reading the agenda for a school board meeting. The board was going to congratulate him for his win. I checked with the district PR person, and no other local outlet had written anything about him. Ended up being a pretty good story.
  9. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Ask your contacts -- coaches, SIDS, parents on the teams you cover -- if anybody's got an interesting story to tell -- a hobby or a talent away from the sport. The captain of our national championship contending hockey team can juggle. I haven't asked him about it; asked the most unusual thing he's ever juggled, asked him to juggle three or four pucks or how he got good at it and how long he's been doing it, but I will -- perhaps after I ask him how he juggles the demands of being a top calibre student with the demands of leading a national championship calibre hockey team.
  10. I'll never tell

    I'll never tell Active Member

    I pitched a story a couple of years ago about a girls basketball team that was 0-for the season, and going into the final week, we knew it would take a miracle of God to change that.

    My thought was go to a practice, go to one of the games, and then talk to the girls about that not giving up crap everybody talks about and whether losing ever quits hurting and crap like that.

    My two writers that I handed it off to argued it nine ways to Sunday why they shouldn't do the story or why it wouldn't be good. Most of the time if they don't get on board, I just let it die, because I've found out over the years, if they're not into it, they're just going to turn in a steaming pile.

    Now, they've argued enough that I don't give them anything anymore. Maybe the next ones will give a shit about doing something different. (Not that that idea was wildly different, but it was for what they turn in.)
  11. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    It's good to ask for tips, etc., but the best thing to do is to hone your own instincts and perceptions.

    The key to finding/thinking of good story ideas is in recognizing in the first place what might make for one, and why. To a certain extent, this is a natural talent -- an instinct -- in those that are best at it. For them, the insight often occurs in a flash, in a sort of thinking-on-feet realization that they tuck away for further research/discussion. Or, they have an ability to feel/think/see through a more complex matter to an interesting aspect of it that may also be turned into a story.

    Interest in and recognition of that something has to occur, though.

    It is a skill that can be improved, sharpened, practiced and honed, however, in almost anyone willing to open his or her mind and heart. It's cliche-sounding, but when it comes to reporting, there really is such a thing as thinking outside the box. In my opinion it is one of the most valuable aspects of a good reporter because it's not something that can be taught very easily.
  12. writingump

    writingump Member

    I'm a southwest Virginia guy and I had no idea Chilhowie had a restaurant like that. Floors the hell out of me. Anyway, that story about a winless girls team is one I'd love to do, for all the reasons I'll never tell described.
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