Good reporters practice observation diligently. They are keen observers with active minds. They notice things that the average person might overlook. For example, what does it mean when you walk across a college campus and notice the interior condition of students’ cars? How many are messy?
Which ones are neatly kept? What do you observe inside— textbooks? Fast-food bags? Energy drinks? What does it say about how students on your campus study and work? Or, consider construction projects that seem to pop up by surprise, offhand board meeting comments, a CEO’s ambiguity at a press conference, or subtle data trends you spot in your own research. The world is full of interesting people and things, even when so much of it appears to be routine. Your next big story could be sitting right under your nose if you are keen enough to observe it. Knowing what is important to your audience arms you with clues about what to look for as you creatively envision a story.
For example, if you work in a rural area with many farms, then you know that long-term weather impact is important in your community. If weather reports point to the beginnings of a drought in such an area, a story featuring the impact of drought weather will be valuable to cover. Similarly, if your community is home to a number of large employers and some are facing closure, you know such changes are critical to the economy of the entire area.
Knowing and caring about what affects your community and your audience will help you to evaluate story ideas.