When a slow news day hits, better put on your thinking cap

“If you say you can’t find news, you aren’t looking hard enough.”

I walked into work on Monday, did my usual beat calls, read the front pages of all of the Louisiana newspapers, combed through our local newspaper, read through press releases, scanned the New York Times and USA Today, and checked my “Louisiana News” twitter list and couldn’t come up with a single story. I even began calling people that aren’t a part of my beat list and repeated the same question, “So, have you heard anything going on?” I even asked my favorite PIO, “so personally what would be interesting for you to see on the news tonight?” Still…nothing.

Every potential lead fell apart. There weren’t any stories to follow up on and I couldn’t even find a single national story to localize. I desperately looked up at my fellow dayside reporters and saw them looking as frustrated as I was. Welcome to a small market. Sure there is always news going on at any time, but sometimes until you’ve built a good list of contacts that trust you, it’s hard to dig up. It was such a slow news day and for some reason the usual stories that I come across naturally just wasn’t happening for me.

Time was ticking on by and my 5pm deadline seemed to be speeding toward me. Phone call after phone call still churned up nothing. I even googled other small market news stations to see what they were reporting on across the country, because they’ve got to enterprise news stories too all the time, but still nothing! Finally I pulled up our news archives and scanned through nearly every package from the previous December that was done at our station. Most of it was holiday shopping, holiday safety, travel safety, how to stay safe from scams, blah blah blah. But finally I came across an interesting story about toxic toys. Every year a consumer watchdog group releases a report in December reminding parents of the dangers of toys that are made with dangerous chemicals. Since it was an annual thing, I immediately googled the report and BAM found the 2011 version. Finally, I had a story! Luckily, I was able to get a hold of a child education expert at the Children’s Coalition and she gave me some good soundbites and I threw that package together no problem.

Here is that video:

The following day, I ran into the same road blocks. It just doesn’t seem like anything but fluffy Christmas stories are going on around the holidays! A report that the newspaper summarized caught my eye and I decided to roll my sleeves up and dig into the 70 page analysis that an independent company had conducted on the City of Monroe public schools. That type of story is what you would call a “newspaper story” and not very good for TV because there really isn’t much video to incorporate and its stuffed full of facts and statistics, which can be hard to fit into a 1:30 script. But I felt it was important enough for our viewers to know about, so I basically did a lot of graphics and document shots. I tried really hard to get some soundbites but nobody from the school board would answer my calls.

On Wednesday it was looking like I was going to have to cover a very PRish fluffy bubble gum piece about Christmas but since the event was later in the day, I decided to just keep the idea in my back pocket and search for something better. I was typing away on my computer when through the garble of the scanners I heard, “bank robbery”.

Immediately, my eyes snapped up from my computer at the same time as another fellow reporter. We glared at each other for a second until we both scrambled toward the scanner. Immediately I called dibs, “You already have a story, Patrick!” As I scribbled down the address to the bank robbery, Patrick conceded and I was out the door to my very first bank robbery! It turned out to be quite interesting because the robber was a male wearing a woman’s wig and make up. That robbery saved me from another slow news day! I think that’s why reporters brains are wired to only hear words from scanners that include, “robbery, fire, death, car accident” which are all terrible things but are hard news nonetheless.

Here is that video:

They say that if we think this week was a slow news week, wait until next week when every single public official has taken the week off. We’ll see what kind of stories I’ll have to be creative about next week!

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