C’mon gang! Challenge yourself!

outside the boxI preach this all the time: Don’t do the obvious and the mundane in an obvious and mundane way.

Punch up that stuff!

Don’t just do a story on campus parking and how students think it sucks. If there were trams and moving sidewalks and porters to carry their bookbags, students would complain about parking.

So how do you take the campus parking story and give it punch? Glad you asked. After the jump, I will tell you and then take an actual assigned story from a campus paper and do the same with it and see if the reporter takes my advice.

You get he following slip of paper/email/social media from your news desk:

Campus parking: Students say it sucks. Do a story on what they don’t like.

Now I am going to weigh in.

You could do the story like 99 percent of student reporters would. You could talk to several students, campus police and an administrator and turn it in. And bore the crap out of your readers.

OR

You could do the above and find out how many parking spots we actually have on campus. Find out how that compares on a per student basis to similar campuses. Find out how many parking tickets are written each year. How many of those are appealed? How many of those appeals succeed? Are the numbers changing from year to year?

See what I mean?

I acknowledge that the parking story keeps coming up because there is a story waiting to be told. No one has told it yet. Be that reporter that tells your campus WHY parking is a story and not just an everyday inconvenience. Get to the bottom of it.

Giving it punch, Part Deaux

Here is a story assignment directly from a campus newspaper for next week’s edition:

Student Employment: Bunny Lebowski

Angle: What jobs are available to students who may be looking for a part time job during the school year? Contacts: [university website and campus employment office], find a couple of student workers and ask them what the benefits of working on campus are and how easy or difficult the process of receiving the jobs were.

First, how the hell do you know the angle before you look into the story? What if you are asking your questions and the student employment contact says, “Well we had so many more jobs before they slashed our budget.”? Holy Change of Focus, Batman! You better change gears into budget angle mode. If an assignment desk gives you an angle, they are insane. If they give you a possible angle, they are helpful. But don’t go into any story determined to write it a certain way.

So, how should Bunny go about covering this? Again, glad you asked.

The angle suggested has been done to death. That is not to say that isn’t good information. It is. But let’s give it punch.

How many students are employed by the university? Have those numbers gone up or down over the past few years? How does your campus compare to similar schools? What jobs do student workers do? Can you find one who does a really interesting job and use him/her as the focus in a Wall Street Journal style feature? How does the inevitable turnover of student workers affect departments?

Punch.

Get out of that box, gang!

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