Friday, March 25, 2011

"Want to develop story ideas? Try Facebook"

That's a very helpful tip by the guru of journalism teachers, Roy Peter Clark of Poynter. (One more tip: The most powerful tool for getting reader feedback and generating civil conversation, he says, is the open-ended question. More about that later.)

Clark writes in his column (published on the Poynter website last month) that he had taken part recently in a discussion on how social networks can help journalists. Afterwards, thinking back to a conversation at the discussion about the risks women take by wearing high heels, Clark thought of a story idea:

I decided to ask my Facebook friends about their experiences and opinions on high heels and women’s health. “Has the recent popularity of stiletto heels led to more accidents or foot problems for women?"

Then Clark posted more questions on Facebook about women’s experiences with heels. "Within a couple of hours," he writes, "I received 36 messages highlighting a number of possible story angles."

Clark then explains how — with the help of a good question — topics encountered on Facebook could grow into something more.

But how you frame that "good question" is going to be critical to the success of your plan. Concludes Clark:

To generate the most revealing and productive answers, the questions must avoid Yes/No choices. It is the open-ended question that most often provides what writers most need: details, anecdotes, stories, scenes, along with rich and interesting language.

Read the column in its entirety here: "The case of high heels: How open-ended questions on Facebook can spark story leads".

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