Surprisingly, one of the most difficult parts of journalism is actually coming up with story ideas... not just any story idea, but stories that you actually care about. I can spend days, literally FULL days, consecutively, looking for story ideas. I look on the internet, on poster boards, in stores, on the streets, I look everywhere! In a way, sometimes... in that tick, tick, tick moment a journalist's brain has (that one when you are straight set on finding something good) you can lose a little sense of reality. You become so focused on whether every part of life around you could work as a story that you forget you are, in fact, part of real life.
My story idea secret (I guess it won't be secret anymore) is to look at blogs. Over the years I have sifted through hundreds and hundreds of blogs looking for that interesting character that has a story to tell. And, I have been doing just that in Maine. I think I have bookmarked over 25 Maine-based blogs. Actually, a bunch of them would make really good stories. I'll run them by you: A woman in Northern Maine who speaks to and does the work of angels, a German woman who lives in Maine and teaches West African drumming, and a Maine girl who blogs about her paranormal investigations. The way I see it is, if there is a person out there who has a really interesting story they want to tell... they will blog about it. Some people really just lay everything on the line, or online I guess.
I had a moment today, that I must admit I am not proud of, but in the interest of full story-finding disclosure, I will share. About 45 blogs in I came across a blog entry by a woman in rural Maine informing her followers that she just lost her husband of 45 years, in her own arms... and for a brief second, in my story-ideas-are-most-important mindset, I thought, "I wonder if I could make a story out of that?" For a brief shameful second, I had lost my touch with real life, blogger after blogger become faceless writings by imaginary people. Until you have that moment, where you snap back into reality and see a real person. I think it is a lesson for every journalist to learn at some point: stories may be the goal, but in every story idea you are seeing into the lives of real people. Sometimes you lose the real people in the story. You have deadlines, meetings, expectations and you forget about the faces, the people. Journalism is able to do something that a lot of professions can't; we get to experience brief yet intimate moments in people's lives, and then we get to share those moments with other people... all with the hope that we can come to understand each other better.
So, I have made a promise to myself. From now on, for every blog I read I will take time to see the person, the face behind the words... to understand.