News is what people click on: here are some places to find it.
News is what people click on. Don’t get hung up on whether something is big enough – if it interests a lot of people, it’s a story.
Stories don’t just fall on your lap, but there are plenty out there and they are easy to find. Here are a few ways.
You don’t even have to leave your bed for this one. People are always putting up pictures and posting statuses about things they’ve seen or heard. If a lot of people click like, then it’s a story – share it with the world.
We found this story, which was read by 25,000 people, after spotting the video on Facebook.
There are places you can go on Facebook to find stories: sports teams and club nights regularly put up entertaining photos. Confessions and ‘spotted’ pages sometimes throw up story leads, like this one.
Accept it: people prefer looking at pictures to reading text. Twitter is full of people putting up good photos. Search for your university name (and other local names) and see what comes up in the images section in the top left. Read the tweets too – there might be a story on there.
Follow people from around your uni, in case they mention something interesting.
Give up any prejudice you have against social media, and use it.
Always remember: people prefer looking at photos to reading words. If you find a good picture anywhere, it will make a good news story. And always think about including pictures in your stories.
You should see a lot of stories coming – keep a calendar of events that are coming up, like Varsity matches or the uni ski trip. If there’s an event on, search for it on twitter and Facebook and see what people are posting.
Check when interesting people and celebrities are coming to visit the town/uni, and get photos of them there. Celebrity club appearances are a real winner, like this one.
Think of the time of year: if it’s November/December, it’s naked calendar season.
Look at the weather: if it’s snowing, or boiling hot, you can do a great story full of pictures.
Search on YouTube for your university and places associated with uni life. Sort the results so the newest display first. You could find the next craze, like Milking.
Uni prospectus videos are always worth a look, in case they are really embarrassing.
Rogue additions to Wikipedia pages can make a good story, and catching someone making favourable edits about themselves is always good.
You might even discover a detail about someone which no one knew before. Remember: it isn’t old ’til it’s told.
Google Alerts sends you the days headlines for whatever search term you choose. Set it up for your uni, and if anything has been in the news, you’ll see it.
Go to Google Alerts here, put your university’s name as the search query, and choose Once a day in the how often box. Then click create alert.
Freedom of information requests
You can use an FOI request to ask questions of any public body, including a university. Read our guide to making FOI requests here.
What Do They Know is a public site for making FOI requests. Don’t make requests through it, because anyone can see your story. But do look through your university’s page from time to time, and see if there are any stories in there.
Talking to people
Open a newspaper, and you’ll see 90% of stories are based on what someone said. Those stories don’t come from nowhere – reporters are constantly calling people. The whole industry depends on reporters asking questions.
“We ring people up, and write down what they say”
For example, if a favourite local venue is closing down, think of all the people you can speak to. Each person’s comments form the basis for a news story.
If you interview someone, there should be a story in there. Think about what kind of story you want before you speak to them: ask yourself what’s in the news, or what topic they will have an interesting view on.
As former Sunday Times news editor Nick Hellen said: “We ring people up, and write down what they say.” It’s simple.
Once a story runs, that isn’t the end of it. Keep doing follow up stories – if students are protesting about a ‘racist’ ball theme, you can do a story virtually every day. Get the ball organizers’ view, and you’ve got a story. Ask the protesters what they intend to do, and you’ve got another story.
Even if another paper breaks a story, you should look to do a follow up. There’s no shame in taking their lead, provided you can find a way to take the story on (new quotes, a new angle etc.).
Read the paper
Normal people can read online, but if you want to be a journalist you need to buy a paper twice a week.
Get the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail and the Sun. Whatever you think about their politics, they have the best stories and the clearest writing.
Think about how they got stories, and see what ideas you can borrow. It might be a type of story, or an actual topic. For example, this story took national news (Jimmy Savile) and gave it a local angle (the loss of his honorary degree).
If you read a paper regularly, you are much more likely to do well on work experience and get a job.
Surveys and polls
Drugs, sex, dodgy landlords – there’s plenty of things you can ask readers about. Students love filling in these surveys, and they love reading the results even more.
It’s easy to make a survey on Polldaddy, ask Tab HQ if you need help.
Take loads of screenshots from the programme, and include video if you can. Get quotes from the student.
Your university’s website will have a news section. Most of the stories will be boring to students who don’t care about research findings and funding grants.
But occasionally there will be an interesting story there, or you might be able to find a good angle in the press release.
Tip: the most interesting details are normally low down in a press release.
If a celebrity comes to your uni, make sure you get pictures and try to speak to them. Club promoters will happily provide photos in exchange for a plug for their event in the article.