Working at a student newspaper - either high school or college - can be a great experience for a young journalist looking to get some work experience. But coming up with that first story can be a little intimidating when you start to wonder what exactly you should write about.
Some school papers will have good editors who are full of great story ideas; others, maybe not. So it's often up to the reporter to find an assignment. Fortunately, there are always interesting stories to be found if you know where to look. Below are some different kinds of stories, with ways you can develop your own ideas and some examples of real stories done by students at the college where I teach journalism.
This includes coverage of important events on campus and developments that affect students. These are the kinds of stories that typically make the front page. Look for events and developments that affect students, and think of the causes and consequences of those events. For instance, let's say your college decides to raise tuition. What caused this action, and what will its consequences be? Chances are you'll be able to get several stories out of an issue like that.
Example: Students respond to tuition hike
Student papers always need people to write about student clubs, and these stories are pretty easy to do. Chances are your college website has a clubs page with contact information. Contact the advisor and interview him or her as well as some of the student members. Write about what the club does, when then meet, and so on. Be sure to include any contact info or website addresses for the club.
Example: Improv Club
Student papers always need people to cover sports, but a lot of people just want to write about the pro teams. So at our paper in the suburbs of Philadelphia we have a rule - if you want to write an article about the Sixers, Eagles, Flyers or Phillies that's fine, but for every pro sports story you do you must also do a story about one of the school's teams. Be sure to check out this article on Different Kinds of Sports Stories.
Example: Cougars claw women's team
EVENTS ON CAMPUS
This includes poetry readings, speeches by guest lecturers, club events, blood drives, etc. Check the bulletin boards around campus or the events calendar for upcoming events. In addition to covering the events themselves, you can do preview stories in which you alert readers to an upcoming event on campus. NOTE: If you do a preview of an upcoming event, make sure it gets into the paper well before the event is scheduled to occur.
Example: Fallen vet honored
Interview an interesting professor or staff member at your college and write a story. If there's a student who has accomplished some interesting things you could write about him or her.
Example: Focus on professor
Student papers always need reviews of the latest movies, TV shows, video games, books and so on. They can be a lot of fun to write. But remember, reviews don't give you the kind of reporting experience that news stories do. Read this before writing a review.
Example: James Bond movie
What are the latest trends affecting college students, whether in technology, relationships, fashion, music or something else? Find a trend and write about it.
Example: Facebook breakups
EDITORIALS, OPINION COLUMNS
Are you interested in politics, or just want to vent about something that's bothering you? You could write an editorial or column. Be as passionate as you want, but also be responsible and include actual facts to back up your argument.
Example: Stand up and vote