Mining Your Local News for Story Ideas – Diane Stark

Mining Your Local News for Story Ideas – Diane Stark

A few years back, I was watching my local evening news and the reporter interviewed a family who had adopted nine siblings out of the foster care system. It was the largest special needs adoption in my state’s history.

As I watched the interview, my writer’s radar went on high alert. These people were amazing! I wrote down their names and a brief synopsis of their story. I wrote them a letter, telling them that I was a writer and I would love to write about them for a national publication focusing on adoption. I asked if they would be willing to meet with me, and they agreed. I then sent a query letter via email to my target magazine, describing the family’s experiences and telling them that I had already secured an interview with the family. In less than 24 hours, the editor of the magazine called me and gave me the go-ahead to do the interview and write the story.

I met with the family and they really were amazing people. I wrote their story, snapped some pictures, and was paid handsomely for my efforts.

This opportunity fell into my lap not because I already knew these wonderful people, but because I watched my local news. In the last few years, I have interviewed and written about six people who were first featured on my local news station.

There are dozens of interesting people featured on local news channels across the country every evening. Each of these people is a potential story for an observant writer. National magazines have no way to know about these local “celebrities” unless local writers bring them to their attention.

Develop a habit of watching your local news with a pen and paper close by. When someone interesting is featured, write down their name and a bit about them. If you can locate a magazine that you think might be interested in their story, use Google or even your local phone book to find contact information for the person. To avoid a potentially embarrassing situation, never send out a query letter until you’ve been granted permission to interview the person. Most people are all too happy to share their story, but you don’t want to promise a story you can’t deliver.

Watching your local news can be a great way to find additional story ideas. You’ll meet some truly interesting people – and add to your bottom line.

Diane Stark is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her work has been featured in 20+ Chicken Soup for the Soul books, as well as many regional and national publications. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith. Diane can be reached at