The quality of the news that comes out of the radio depends heavily on the quality of preparation that went into it. While it might seem that stories begin at the moment of “assignment,” in fact they develop through a sophisticated process involving several news support systems:
- Story idea cultivation
- Storage and retrieval of news info and contacts
- Story shaping
A System for Story Ideas
Newsrooms are story factories. The raw materials are story ideas. Newsrooms cultivate story ideas from numerous sources:
- Reporters, especially reporters on beats, often deliver the most authentic and unique story ideas drawn directly from their own observations or community contacts.
- Other media often deliver up good story ideas that can be rewoven into your own version of that story.
- Unfortunately, all too often our story ideas are fed to us from public relations professionals who are paid to get story ideas on your air.
- Newsrooms have always received story ideas over the transom from citizens, academics, and opinion leaders.
- The processes of government often yield story ideas, as do the conduct of business or the proceedings of groups and institutions.
- Events – whether planned or unplanned – often trigger story assignments. ND’s try to balance the urgency of “the happening” with the importance, or “the meaning” of the event.
Ultimately, the news director is less concerned about having a large supply of story ideas and more concerned about having just enough excellent story ideas.
A System for Information Storage and Retrieval
Your newsroom needs a system for capturing and organizing the constant flow of raw story ideas.
Most use a “day-file” system for slotting ideas by month, week and day. The day-file system employs a central, shared set of folders (physical or electronic or both). Incoming press releases, story tips and other “futures” are slotted for the day or month to be considered.
Similarly, news editors work with reporters to maintain a file for story idea-lists (generated per reporter or beat). Again, the file system is calendar based so that news is pegged for its timeliness.
Meanwhile, access to sources is enhanced by quick retrieval of phone numbers and other newsmaker contact info. Well functioning newsrooms maintain their own deep and reliable databases. Electronic systems are fast, easy to share and easy to update. For more detail, see How-To’s → Establish a System of Contacts
A System for Story Shaping
This is dealt with elsewhere in the PRNDG. See Your News.