Panel to discuss ‘A Reporter’s 10-Step Guide to Finding Good Stories’
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some say the best stories are those that haven’t yet been told. If you ask Nanya Friend, West Virginia Press Association news editor and former Charleston Daily Mail publisher and editor, she’ll tell you ideas are solid gold and scads of them are scattered about West Virginia, waiting to be mined.
At the WVPA’s 2015 Convention, Friend hopes to reinvigorate and inspire editors and reporters from around the state with “A Reporter’s 10-Step Guide to Finding Good Stories,” a panel she will be conducting on Aug. 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites in Charleston along with a few of West Virginia’s award-winning journalists.
“Newspapers around the state are doing a great job, but we can always improve, whether it’s a newspaper overall or individual reporters,” Friend said. “What I would like to ask other reporters is this: What are topics in your area that are relevant to your community that you can develop expertise in?”
Friend points out journalists in Wheeling and Martinsburg have taken on the challenging task of providing in-depth coverage of the oil and gas industry and the drug abuse epidemic, respectively. Such specialized and local issues are just what papers in every region of West Virginia need to explore, according to Friend. She said what many reporters don’t realize is not every successful story is going to appear interesting at the surface level. Delving further into topics that aren’t necessarily piquing the writer’s interest is key to discovering stories that qualify as hard-hitting journalism and increase readership.
Spending her days scouring all papers across West Virginia gives Friend a unique insight into the problems around the state and individual regions. Keeping up with the statewide news circuit has allowed Friend to make observations on not just print stories, but social media presence, as well.
“A genuine dilemma we have is that we are all pressed to be online and on social media, tweeting constant updates. But is it really important to tweet every development in a trial, for example? Do people really want that much?”
In considering the Twitter-verse, Friend suspects that readers would benefit more from a well-written narrative in lieu of a play-by-play in real time. In a world where everyone is expected to maintain an online persona, where do we draw the line? That question is one of many that Friend hopes to answer in her discussion at Convention.
Young journalists in particular stand to benefit from learning techniques that will improve their work and ultimately, their careers. The social media question is undoubtedly at the top of many of their lists and yet, Friend insists that the most important aspect of career development is the relationship between a reporter and his editor.
“Coaching during the reporting and writing process is very important. Editors need to realize how important they are. Set aside the urgent from the important. The outcome, which is the story, is going to be important. If you sharpen the story and the reporter, you can get a story that you can put on page one instead of page C8,” says Friend.
Editors and reporters alike can expect to gain from Friend’s panel as she aims to express how the editor can help improve the story with upfront conversation. Friend explains that there are still a myriad of ways to cover a topic, even if it has already been done before. Budding reporters often bring a fresh perspective and a new excitement to yearly events that may seem stale to editors. This type of enthusiasm bodes well for the future of the paper itself as new and seasoned reporters learn to not only tighten their bond with their editors, but also dig deeper for stories that will grab the reader.
“One of the ways to improve your work is to learn by doing. Every story you do, you take something away from it. And treat ideas as your gold. As an editor long ago, I learned that ideas are solid gold,” Friend shares.
If you’re wondering where to go prospecting for these nuggets of gilded storytelling, Friend has one piece of advice to impart: stoke your own curiosity. Immerse yourself in news publications, examine the topics being covered and start thinking about what interests you. “It all goes back to becoming an expert in topics in your area,” said Friend.
The West Virginia Press Association hopes with this seminar at Convention and with the wealth of special and engaging themes hidden throughout West Virginia, journalists will grab pen and pad — the industry’s version of a pan and a drill — and start searching for these gems. Keep mining. Keep brainstorming. Perhaps the best story will come from you.
WVPA Executive Director Don Smith said there is still time to register reporters for this valuable panel discussion. Visit WVPA Convention 2015 to sign up.