Creating a Lead
If you're a journalist, you know the power of a good lead. It evokes emotions in readers or creates a hubbub in the community. It touches on people's deepest fears or desires and provides them with the information they need and crave. However, depending on what type of publication you write for, where you go to uncover new leads will be very different.
Here, we examine a few of the types of journalism outlets and the places you can find leads to fill up space and cause a stir.
NewspapersIf you work for a daily paper, you know that finding leads is a day-to-day proposition. Sometimes, leads will come to you in the form of emergencies, accidents, or other unexpected events. On slower news days, you may have to seek out leads yourself.
One of the best resources for leads is your local downtown area. There, you can spot what's going on and what might be of interest to your readership. For instance, are there picketers in front of a store front or standing on a street corner? Find out what they are opposed to. Is the hotspot diner putting up a "for sale" sign? Sniff out the story on why the owners are selling it and whether it will stay in business.
By being observant, you'll be able to spot new trends and news before it gets picked up elsewhere.
You can also find leads through press releases. When you have little of interest to write about, sift through all the faxes and mail just to see if anything catches your eye. Who knows you might find your next winning article topic in a press release about homeless cats and dogs.
Entertainment MagazinesJournalists who write for entertainment-style publications need to stay current on the latest happenings in the world of actors, directors, musicians, and similar popular individuals. It's hard to find a lead, though, if you don't have connections; therefore, every good entertainment writer needs to have some way of getting the "scoop".
You'll need to make friends in the industry, but that doesn't necessarily mean hobnobbing with agents and starlets. Remember - those folks are out to give you "spin"; you want the real story.
The folks you need to befriend are those workers behind the cameras or scenes. Seek out the companionship of production assistants, make-up artists, roadies, and personal assistants. They'll give you some great leads, as they usually have insider knowledge that you won't hear directly from a Hollywood hunk. Just make sure that you keep your contacts' identities confidential; otherwise, you could lose your connections.
BloggersSome journalists have taken their skills to the Internet in the form of informational blogs. Usually, these blogs are not devoted to local news; instead, they concentrate on national and international interest pieces.
Since you cannot fly around the world seeking out leads, you'll need to depend on others for stories. Gradually gather a cadre of trusted writers from around the globe who can share insider tips and news from their regions. They can feed you leads that your readers might otherwise never hear about, and you can do likewise for them. You can also obtain quotes from international persons, which will add "meat" to your blog. It's a perfect example of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
Leads are everywhere, but you have to be determined to find them. Be fastidious and never forget that a good journalist doesn't allow a difficult hunt to stop him or her.