I moved from Seattle to Orlando and, as soon as I settled here, I began writing for a regional publisher, Central Florida Lifestyle, which puts out 12 magazines. I also answered a call for a writer from the Natural Resources News Service (NRNS).
NRNS and the National Security News Service are sources of investigative reports produced by the Public Education Center, a non-partisan non-profit that develops stories for the national media. My first assignment, on the closure of the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific libraries, took me to scientists, librarians, Congress, EPA Headquarters, union officials and many individuals who insisted on anonymity (for fear of reprisal from the government). That story was scheduled for publication in mid-July, 2008. I’m now investigating a nationally significant environmental issue in Florida.
My first story may not be picked up by the national media as major breaking news, but I did discover that the incredibly hard work of digging for the truth in this kind of reporting is actually interesting, even fun. It’s also an opportunity for my work to be discovered – not under my byline in the big media outlets perhaps – but by my peers, the writers, editors, publishers and producers who go to sources like this one for ideas and information. The markets that base their stories on NRNS research include ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’s 60 Minutes, NBC’s Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, PBS’s News Hour With Jim Lehrer, CNN, BBC, CBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report among others.
Of course, if Katy Couric picks up my story – or if a newspaper uses it to report on their local aspect of an issue – it means bonus pay for me. The bonus for you is that now you know of another source you can go to. When you’ve got an assignment and don’t know where to start, it’s often good to start with, “What has been reported? What footwork has already been done?” Look up resources like NRNS, databases that your library has online access to, and other news services. Chances are, a journalist has already done some of the work for you.
Natural Resources News Service and National Security News Service can be seen at: http://www.storiesthatmatter.org
James Robert Daniels, a.k.a. Jim Daniels, has been published in various media since he began as the editorial writer for a newspaper and column writer for a magazine, and sold his first short story (all in the same year, a long, long time ago). A former BookLocker author (he sold the rights to his book to another company after first publishing it at BookLocker) and occasional contributor to WritersWeekly.com, Jim has moved suddenly to the South because he hates being cold. He continues to refuse to specialize, because he likes to learn. His home on the web is http://www.writers.net/writers/Jim.