Finding story ideas in unlikely places

12 June 2010

As a new intern in a new city in a state I’ve never lived in, I’m finding it’s not always easy to find story ideas to pitch. And finding a story idea still means making sure no one else in the newsroom is working on anything similar and checking the archives to make sure it’s not a repeat of something we’ve already done. It takes some time and looking in unusual places to find something that will work.

That said, I was thrilled to find this video with 20 tips for finding story ideas from the Times’ Lane DeGregory, who won a Pulitzer for her story “The girl in the window.” The video is more than an hour long, but I listened to the entire talk twice. Some of her tips: talk to strangers, write about losers, give everyone your phone number, work holidays and play dumb.

One of her tips (No. 10: hang out at bars) inspired me to check out a bikini bar for a story I was working on. I didn’t need to go out to the bar, and the thought of visiting one was definitely was outside of my comfort zone, but I was immeasurably glad I did in the end. Not only did I gain a new perspective on the bars, but I met really interesting people who had interesting stories that were different from what I already knew. And while I didn’t take them up on it, but I also was offered a chance to learn how to pole dance. Not your usual day in the office.