To find great stories, look beyond obvious sources, NPR correspondent says

by Jessica Weiss
Oct 30, 2018 in Journalism Basics

Updated August 19, 2013, 9:51 EST.

When seeking a source to interview for a story, “go and look for the person who may not obviously appear to have a story.”

That is the advice of veteran reporter Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, the Africa Correspondent for U.S.-based National Public Radio (NPR). She recently spoke at the launch of the African Story Challenge about what makes a good story.

“Often on a story people will run up to your microphone and speak,” says Quist-Arcton, who reports for NPR News on issues and developments related to West Africa. “But it’s not always those people who you’ll find you’ll use.”

The challenge is a new $1 million program of reporting grants to encourage innovative, multimedia storytelling that aims to improve the health and prosperity of Africans. The African Media Initiative (AMI) launched the contest because the topic of health is too often given short shrift in media coverage in Africa, according to media consultant Joseph Warungu, who is helping AMI run the contest as part of his Knight International Journalism Fellowship.

“Everywhere you look in African media, there’s an emphasis on politics and political coverage,” Warungu told IJNet in May. “When you speak to journalists, especially editors, they say politics sells; any front page anywhere in Africa will be just politics.”

Instead of counting on a politician or an expert speaker for a quote or a sound bite, Quist-Arcton says: “what you need to do is go and look for the person who doesn’t speak, and who may not obviously appear to have a story. They will be the ones who will have the gem.”

That subject may end up being a quieter person, she says. “And that will often be a woman or a girl or a child.”

The Africa Story Challenge is in the first of five cycles. Twenty short-listed candidates recently attended an intensive training boot camp, and their stories will be published or broadcast in the coming days. Final winners will be named Sept. 2nd.

This video has more of Quist-Arcton’s advice for journalists:

Video via African Story Challenge.