What’s your story?

ImageBy Hinda Mandell, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor


Don’t get caught empty handed. Develop story ideas now!


One of the hardest jobs of a journalist is to develop, cultivate and collect story ideas. You’re only as good as your latest story idea. And as a journalist covering a certain “beat,” it’s up to you – not your editor – to know what’s going on.


Don’t ever expect to be handed story ideas, whether it’s in the classroom, through your internship or as a professional reporter.


I often witness students struggling to come up with story ideas. While I certainly guide, tweak and massage students’ ideas into stories that are newsworthy and manageable, I very rarely – if ever – tell students exactly what to write on. That’s your job as a student.


For those of you interested in journalism studies and/or careers, you must start now collecting story ideas and – even more importantly – setting a system in place to come up with story ideas. (http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/chip-on-your-shoulder/5842/idea-generators-creativity-tools-for-journalists/)


This is what I like to tell students in my classes.


1.     Buy a notebook. (http://www.moleskine.com/en/) Things are always more fun when it involves shopping.

2.     But a pen, a nice inky one (see above).

3.     Go to a coffee shop with your new purchases.

4.     Purchase a refreshing drink.

5.     Sit and start writing. Doodle.

6.     What do you notice that’s been irking you?

7.     What made you laugh recently?

8.     What do you find ridiculous?

9.     Which sound bites have caught your attention?


Story ideas, as nuggets, exist in each of these questions. By developing the habit now of your relationship to this notebook you will help yourself enormously once classes begin in the fall. As a journalism student you’ll be asked to pitch your own story ideas (and ultimately report on them).


If you start now, you won’t be left empty handed.


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