Living the Dream, One Idea at a Time

As a journalism student, I have thus far focused more on media ethics and the importance of projecting a professional online identity than I have on constructing interesting ideas and topics for stories. If you are a news reporter covering a local or national event, usually the current happenings draw you to a good story. In magazines that are tailored for a specific audience, however, how are you to know which topics to pursue and those that should be trashed?

I’ve began brainstorming how one pursuing a career in magazine writing (mwah!) would go about narrowing down an idea to make it both intriguing and relevant to a particular audience while simultaneously offering a fresh approach.

The process may seem confusing, as it was to me at first, but I am going to offer you my thoughts on this subject and a list of tips on how to write engaging material:

  • You can never do enough brainstorming. An idea that appears far-fetched and ridiculous to you could fascinate an editor and eventually attract loyal readership. Anything goes, and anything is possible.
  •  Scope out the competition. In no way should you be searching for ideas to steal or build off of, but doing your homework to see what has already been done to offer a new spin on a traditional topic will interest readers.
  • Seek out your audience. Defining who you wish to target and what their likes/dislikes are will help narrow your idea. Also, by identifying your audience, you can ask for their input on what they wish to read about and are interested in finding more about.

  • Go with what you know. It is never a good idea to attempt to write an article you have no interest in or have no information on. If you are an expert in something or possess a unique skill, use it to your advantage when magazine writing.
  • Incorporate quirkiness. Stories about peculiar or somewhat controversial topics draw in attention and make the reader want to know more about you are talking about. However, be sure to balance a controversial subject with both sides of the controversy. Don’t be biased.
  • Write something that’s relatable to a broad audience. Even though you might love a topic, if it is not relevant to a large audience, the article will nose-dive. Yes, it is good to have an interest in what you’re writing about, but don’t fall in love with your story.
  • Seek inspiration. Who are your idols, icons, role models? Research what they are writing about and what has made them popular in their profession. Don’t hesitate to ask for their guidance and for an opportunity for them to mentor you.

“The more you think, the more time you have.” ~Henry Ford 

Making Ethical Decisions

In an era of 24/7 news coverage that demands both accuracy and immediacy from providers, plagiarism and fabrication unfortunately appeal to those who feel tortured by looming deadlines and resort to these extremes to outperform the competition. Not only do these unethical choices damage the guilty individual’s reputation, but it stigmatizes all journalists.

In an effort to thwart such indecencies in journalism, many editors rely on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to present information in an authentic way and maintain loyalty to readers. With temptations lurking around every corner and technological advancements making these temptations all the more appealing and easier to carry out, journalists must also formulate their own moral compass to determine whether they are being ethical.

When analyzing just what the SPJ’s code stands for, it is important to understand its four aspects that it so noteworthy:

1. Seek Truth and Report it: Journalists’ primary obligation is to inform citizens about factual events and happenings that are taking place in the world around them so they can make their own decisions. Readers have the right to know the truth and nothing less. Being truthful is what some stressed out reporters forget to do when they choose plagiarism and fabrication over genuineness.

2. Minimize Harm: Although presenting truthful news is a must, journalists must also contemplate the possible consequences that will arise from their reporting. If disclosing an individual’s name and job description will jeopardize their safety, it is not ethical to report on it. By showing compassion for those discussed, readers will respect the news organization much more. Also, sometimes innocent people are thrust into the news, so journalists must do their best to treat them as human beings.

3. Act Independently: Conflicts of interests get journalists in trouble when they allow their affiliation to compromise journalistic integrity and thus allow biases to infiltrate coverage. Whether actual or perceived, conflicts of interest discourage readers from relying on news organizations for accurate material and will turn elsewhere for more objective coverage of an event.

4. Be Accountable: Journalists have a moral responsibility to their readers, first and foremost. Being as transparent as possible with them will strengthen loyalty and allow for open discussion when reporters make mistakes. Providing a forum for such discussion is key to attracting a devoted following.

In the words of Albert Einstein: “I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.”