Here’s a truth about journalism you are probably well aware of, problems sell interest in the news. What do I mean by that? When there’s a problem -- whether it’s at the super local level (think a town board or school district who are dealing with an issue that is dividing the community) or a global event -- people still turn to the news whether in print, on the air or online.
And nothing sells news like storm-related coverage.
Personally, as a consumer, I can’t get enough of weather coverage. Hurricane on the horizon? I’m watching The Weather Channel a good week before the storm is expected.
Blizzards? Oh yeah! Bring it on.
But when you’re tasked with writing about the weather and there’s one storm after another it can be a bit difficult to find something different to say each and every time.
So, if you are a journalist and this is your beat, what do you do?
Focus on the people, not the situation.
While you will likely need to impart some basic weather/storm information somewhere in your story, what is really going to make it stand out and resonate for readers is if you find a way to bring the personal stories -- how people are spending their time, how they are preparing and what kind of impact it’s having on them.
Then find the twist.
Take a common anecdote of people running to the supermarket to buy milk and bread. I recently interviewed a family and we talked about them going to the market and finding the store shelves empty. In their particular case, however, they weren’t looking for grocery staples; they were hoping to find an extra box or two of candles just in case. Not flashlights, not batteries - candles. This was a unique enough spin on the traditional stores are sold out story (for the record, the candles were all sold out) that it made it into the first graph.
Then I interviewed a mother whose home has been turned into “mommy camp and mommy school” in order to keep her kids from getting to bored during the weekly snow days. Each day has set activities and the kids are anything but bored, and they aren’t just glued to their computers all day either.
While I’m using weather as an example, the truth is finding these nuggets is a rule that applies to any beat story from the local school board meeting to how families are spending the Fourth of July weekend at the shore. Ask the questions, listen for the answers and then see if you can find the personal twist.
How do you handle writing weather or beat stories? Share your tips in the comment section.
Writer, Editor and Author of the Achdus Club novels for girls.