For as long as humans have walked this Earth, storytelling has been at the core of who we are as a society and how we function. At its core, journalism is about deeper storytelling with passion and purpose. No matter the beat one covers or the medium of communication, journalists strive to tell stories of substance and inform their audiences to promote growth and conversations. On our Coffee with a Journalist podcast, we talk with journalists from some of the nation’s leading publications about insight into their coverage and story-crafting methods. Through our chats, we’ve learned many journalists in today’s digital-driven and fast-paced world are going back to the basics of journalism to find and craft stories with impact.
Going Back to the Basics
Journalists going back to the basics does not mean bringing back smoke signals and stone tablets. As innovation in technology and communication become instilled in our everyday lives, actions as simple as face-to-face conversations and one-on-one meetings can seem old school.
For Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch journalist covering startups, great stories often bloom from simple conversations. She says, “I feel like most of my favorite story ideas have come from basically walking around and having a conversation. And the conversation is probably not going to be what the story idea ends up being, but something about a turn of phrase or a billboard inspires me to pick up a story.”
Natasha continues noting, “I feel like the best stories are the ones that we’re not pitched directly, but the ones we stumble across serendipitously.” Like her, AdWeek Publishing Editor Sara Jerde also values open conversations to inspire stories. During her episode, Sara mentions her origins working as a reporter for a local New Jersey paper saying, “a big part of that coverage was just constantly talking to as many people as I could at the beginning of the day and I would call police chiefs, and fire chiefs, and mayors, and just have normal conversations.”
She continues talking about how these conversations watered relationships that fostered ideas stating, “when everyone’s comfortable with you, something that they may throw away at the end of the conversation led to some really good story ideas. And I’ve tried to kind of approach my beat now in the same way. I have people that I talk to every day just to check in and see how they’re doing. And sometimes what they’ll say at the end of the conversation turns into a full-blown story idea. And then once that story idea kind of bubbles up, then I’ll pitch it to my editor who oversees a team of us and I’ll go from there.”
As both Natasha and Sara say, conversations are a great catalyst for discovering ideas.
For CNBC Contributor Alex Kantrowitz, this method is not only great but essential for discovering stories. Alex notes the importance of making yourself available for story inspiration. He says, “I think the key is to be speaking with people all the time. Anyone who’s in this business and is shy is going to ultimately close themselves off for opportunities for good stories. Anyone who’s in this business and isn’t curious is going to close themselves off to opportunities for good stories.”
Diving into how he implements these conversations into his regular workflow, Alex elaborates saying, “ I’ve just made a point to fill my days with interviews and conversations with people and just to prod a little bit, but also most importantly to listen and see what they think is interesting in the world.” He goes on to highlight that “sometimes people will say things or act a certain way that will cue you in to the fact that there’s something different going on that your readers might be interested in. And that’s sort of where a story begins.”
As Natasha, Sara, and Alex have said, going back to the basics can be a valuable tool for journalists when looking for original and relevant story inspiration. Whether you are reporting on tech or lifestyle or anything in between, taking a step back into the grassroots of journalism can be both intimate and fruitful.
If you cover tech and are looking to jumpstart those fruitful conversation goals, check out our blog, 5 Journalists to Follow on Twitter: FinTech Edition, where we compile 5 tenured tech journalists to follow for the latest news and updates in the FinTech space. To catch our latest episodes of the Coffee with a Journalist podcast, be sure to subscribe and follow us on Twitter!