Three Ways to Search for Story Ideas and Sources on the Web

May 18, 2012

Now that you have compiled a comprehensive list of sources and influencers in your community, it's time to put them to work. This week's assignment is to use Twitter to generate at least one story idea.

Here are three ways you can approach this:

Your sources

Start by perusing your Twitter lists to see what your sources are talking about. Hopefully they will tip you off to something -- an event happening over the next week, a big drug arrest made last night, a celebrity visiting town. Maybe you find a reporter who already produced a story that you can aggregate and put your own angle on. If your sources are quiet and not providing the good stuff, don't fret, there are other ways to find stories.

Twitter search

One of the most underused features of Twitter is its powerful search function. You can use Twitter's operators to narrow down your search through the advanced search fields. As an example, I did searches for all tweets containing the word "news" within 10 miles of all of your stations: Salisbury, Md., Tallahassee, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., Commerce, Texas, Louisville, Ky., DeKalb, Ill.Greeley, Colo.Binghamton, N.Y.

You of course will want to drill down deeper than just "news." These search operators are great for coming up with new story ideas, but also for getting information on a breaking story. For instance, I noticed KUNC is covering wildfires spreading through Fort Collins, Colo. Here's a Twitter search for "fire" within 15 miles of Fort Collins.

Right off the bat I found a couple of potential sources:

Communities

Still haven't found a story idea? Head over to Reddit and search your city and your beat. If your city has a Subreddit, scan through the hottest posts as well as the newest ones. Hear's a search Delmarva Public Radio might try for "Chesapeake Bay." 

You can also use Google to find what bloggers are saying. Here's a Google News search for all blogs using the word "Tallahassee" over the past 24 hours.

By the way, if you haven't set up Google Alerts for you local community and topic areas, go ahead and start setting them up.

By end of day Thursday, May 24, please e-mail me and Ki a summary of what your story idea was, how you found it and (if it became a published story) the link to it. Mainly, demonstrate how you used Twitter in your reporting.