Six tips for journalists on how to localize news stories

byLeah Silver
Jun 30, 2011 in Journalism Basics

As a business writer and editor, Melissa Preddy is a staunch believer that every national news story has a ripple effect.

To help journalists take major financial news stories and identify how they affect local businesses, Preddy, a former reporter and editor at the The Detroit News, conducted an interactive webinar sponsored by the Reynolds Center offering tips for turning national news stories into great local ones.

Here are the takeaways that IJNet found most helpful:

Source the suppliers. When writing a news story about a product or service in one’s community, supply, manufacturing and transportation companies are helpful because they can be more open to interviews and are more talkative and candid. They also give journalists a heads up as to when a product or service is excelling or going down the drain. For example, Apple may be mum on when the iPhone 5 will launch, so tech publications are turning to suppliers.

Find the silver lining. In a world where natural disasters, bank failures and lawsuits continue to surface haphazardly, readers always look to journalists to find the silver lining. For example, after the Gulf oil spill, the local fishing trade suffered while business boomed for seafood suppliers in other parts of the country.

Go beyond the biz wire. Journalists concentrate on issues that get a lot of hoopla from the national press. As a result, Preddy challenges journalists to tap into the creative compartment of their brain and whip out fresh news angles from popular news stories.

Three examples:

• Capitalize on the buzz over Charlie Sheen’s antics for a story about success rates of local infirmaries.

• Use media coverage on the royal wedding to determine the effect it will have on the bridal industry.

• Address the news on the resignation of Ohio State University’s head football coach, Jim Tressel and using it to analyze the effect on OSU memorabilia sales.

Find the fun. Quirky economic indicators, such as a boom in wedding invitation sales and a spike in purple eyeliner sales are useful for journalists looking for an edge.

Map it. Looking at statistical charts comparing retail sales and unemployment rates can highlight a correlation between data. For example, a journalist could explore the relationship between the number of fast food franchises in a community and the types of patients local doctors see most frequently.

Spice it up with visual aids. Providing visual supplements such as graphs, charts, diagrams, and photo galleries with explanatory captions can aid journalists in proving a point. Tammy Joyner of the Atlanta Journal Constitution said in the webinar chat: "I did an alternative story using a photo of a pizza pie to show how gas prices affected everything from the flour to the cardboard box to the napkins. The pizza owner also was going to have to pass on the cost of making the pizza and getting the ingredients; it's all economics."

To view the entire presentation, click here.