Choose a Topic & Get the Facts

Choose a Topic: The first thing you must do before producing your news feature is to choose a topic.  This would be an event that you feel should be covered or an issue that you would like to investigate.  Make sure your story is not too broad.  One way to help narrow your focus is by answering the questions, why is this story important to the audience you hope to reach?  And why is this story important now?  Be as specific as you can.  If you were to pitch this story to a news program, the first thing the program producer or news editor will want to know is why your topic is relevant.

Bear in mind, no story that is overtly racist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic or sexist will be produced via the Grassroots Media Project.  We are interested in stories that cover activities within DC’s progressive movement and will give priority to those that are specific to the Empower DC campaigns for quality education, affordable housing, childcare for all and keeping public property in the hands of the community.  Additionally, you will be responsible for the information that is included in your story.  You must make sure that facts are accurate and the sources of any opinions are clearly identified.

Get the Facts: Once you’ve chosen your topic, start gathering information.  What do you know (or think you know) about the event or issue that you’re covering in your news feature?  A news story, whether it’s a simple wrap or something as complicated as an audio documentary, includes the who, what, when, where and hopefully the why and how of the issue or event being covered.  Obviously, you’ll need to know those things in order to include them in your story.  You will try to get all of that information from the individuals you interview, but you should not assume that they will know the answers or that they will give you accurate information.  You may have to do some research to answer even the most basic questions.  If you’re following up on a story sent to you via press release then those answers are generally given to you.  If you’re not entirely certain that your source is trustworthy, you may want to do research on your own, especially when it comes to the harder questions of why and how.  In either case, you should research the position(s) of anyone with an opposing point of view.  Getting the facts, as both sides see them, will help to insure that your piece is balanced.

In order to be sure that your topic has the necessary focus, you should define your objectives, which is the next lesson in this tutorial.