Need a story idea? Sometimes it helps to remember the types of stories that are out there. Here are some examples:
Coping: Many people in the community will be/are facing a challenge. Here is a definition of the challenge, tips on how to cope and resources available to you. Example: Seniors anticipating the change that comes with graduating.
Trends piece: A trend is occurring on a large scale. We tell our readers how the trend is playing out in our community. Example: Tuition is increasing at unprecedented levels at universities nationwide. Examine tuition increases at NIU, examine what is behind the increases and put them in context of the national trend.
Sharing a moment: Everyone knows what happened, but sometimes it doesn’t feel “real” to people until it’s documented in the media. This is the stuff people keep commemorative copies of newspapers for: the MAC championship win, Peters announcing resignation, student’s memorial service.
Enterprise/investigative: Scoops. The stuff where reporters look into the ‘why’ of what’s happening, not simply recording events that take place. Or sometimes we fulfill our watchdog role by digging in routine documents, etc., just to see if people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Breaking news: An unexpected event is happening, and we cover the story as it is happening.
Advancer: Reporting that ‘advances’ the story in that it moves the story forward. So if the university council is doing a big vote on grade changes on Wednesday, we do a story Monday before the vote on what the grade changes would mean and how much support the changes have from stakeholders and why.
Preview: Cool thing is going to happen. We tell people about it so they can be there.
Folo: Something happened and we reported on it. A folo is a story that updates the original story on what happened and often provides readers more context and spins forward.
Explainer: Something complicated is going on and we break it down for our readers. Example: There’s a new sales tax that goes to road repairs. What it means for shoppers, retailers and what we can expect to benefit from it. Something we should do an explainer on is the new grading system.
Personality profile: A depth piece on a person of interest or a person who influences the news.
Feature story (from Roy Peter Clark’s definition): It is NOT a news story but can be inspired by the news. It has, at its heart, human interest. It illuminates lives lived in our time. It takes advantage of an expanded set of language and narrative strategies. It can be written and reported within the normal timeframe of journalistic enterprise.