While studying in Coláiste Dhúlaigh one comcept was repeated to the class on numerous occasions; you encounter stories on a day to day basis, it’s just a matter of spotting and them developing them. For me it was easy to be cynical about this idea; unless you live an amazing life or have direct contact to some world leaders the only news-worthy incidents that you happen across are the ones you read in the paper.
Once I began to make a concerted effort to get published, however, I began to see the truth in it. Things like the internet have made it harder, in my opinion, for journalists aspiring to write news. If there’s a news story worth covering you can be sure that every newspaper is on the case, there’s little chance of you or I finding something really worthwhile for tomorrow’s editions. With that in mind the internet has played a vital role in my progression in print. My first two stories were both directly related to the internet; the first being about irishelection.com and the second being about digital downloads (a story I spotted on the Pearl Jam website). Besides this, as I was situated in Wolverhampton for some time the internet took on another vital role; communication. Not just e-mail but VoIP too; without it it would have been impossible for me to properly research topics and interview the relevant people (at least not without a huge cost).
While it is the case that original news stories can be hard to find when you’re operating outside an outlets core that doesn’t mean that the potential for stories is non-existant. The internet is so vast that you might, as I did, catch a few topics that has been missed, you can also make inquiries about certain things in the hope of finding a story (like I did with the Irish charts piece). Finally you can take something that is already news and put a new spin on it, when something happens you can find out what that means for certain people, what changes will come about as a result of it and who will be effected. If you read a story one day that Intel were investing €4 million into its Irish operations you could follow up with another story on where exactly that money is going (new jobs, bigger facility etc.).
I personally am still working on what is called a “news sense”, gradually I’m seeing more and more potential in topics that I would have overlooked before. It helps to have a specific topic or category of interest too, rather than just wandering randomly until something hits you. If you know what you’re looking for you can also figure who to talk to and pester. Piaras has been kind enough to throw a bucket load of ideas my way and some of his suggestions, while helpful in their own right have also encouraged me to open my eyes even wider when I browse the internet or read the newspaper. There really is a wealth of information sitting there and it’s just a matter of finding it and making it relevant, new or important.
My news sense is improving as time goes by and with that I’m hoping to ramp up my workload and really get a regular flow going; this is something I’m aiming for over the next month or two.
One issue that has always worried me about this is the morals of it, though. Once you start looking at the world as a story you run the risk seperating yourself from it. God forbid there comes a day when a loved one tells you of their trials and tribulations and all you have to say in response is “that would make a brilliant feature”. Ensuring that you aren’t missing important issues while at the same time ensuring you’re still a human is probably the most important balance to make; any growth in your news sense has to be coupled by a growth in your common sense too otherwise you’ll end up in a very dark place.