What makes a good story

On any reporting shift at KOMU, a reporter must come with at least three story ideas. So on my first reporter shift in late October, I went to the station with what I thought were three pretty decent ideas. My first one was a feature-like story on a library in the town of Centralia, which is about a half hour from the TV station. It had just won its second award in as many years. The Library Journal hands out the awards, or stars, nationwide to libraries that show certain characteristics, like being friendly and technological savvy.

I thought this was the best story that I had found, and I thought it could be fairly interesting. How is a library in Mid-Missouri winning these awards? Well, when I pitched the idea, the news director Stacey Woelfel didn’t really like it, and told me to share my other two ideas. Both of those were struck down too.

He then told me what really makes a story: conflict. And while this seems obvious, not every story has to be centered around some sort of controversy. But at the same time, I absolutely understood what the news director was talking about. None of my ideas had multiple angles. For their to be conflict, there doesn’t have to be something where a fight could break out over the issue. There just needs to be two differing view points where people watching can relate to the issue.

I need to be able to come up with story ideas like this. Switching gears to a recent broadcast class, my teacher took the whole class outside, where we walked around the block to look for story ideas. I had three. My teacher had more than 30. We then did a brainstorming activity with the whole class, where we shouted out story ideas related to three different topics on the board. I was shocked by how many story ideas we came up with. All of them could be done right here in Columbia. And most of them involved some sort of conflict.

This was an extremely effective way to come up with story ideas that were both very original and contained an element of disagreement. I will definitely go through a similar process by myself before my next reporter shift to see if I can wow Stacey Woelfel with a much better story idea.

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