Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Nurture curiosity — be the ‘idea person’

By · Thursday, June 26th, 2014

One of the most important attributes any journalist can possess is curiosity, because it leads to knowledge. Curiosity leads to answers of all sorts.

One way to strengthen curiosity is to start with the simplest things you are curious about in your everyday life. Really simple. Like what time the post office closes on Saturday — ask. Or who just moved in next door — ask.

Your reward for being curious and asking questions will be stories that answer readers’ questions and satisfy their curiosity — as well as your own.

 Turn Curiosity into Enterprise

Developing enterprise stories can be a challenge. That’s because it takes patience and persistence to be creative. Starting with curiosity helps. If you aren’t curious, you will have a more difficult time coming up with ideas, pitching your ideas and executing your ideas.

How do you overcome the challenge?

Think specific, not general. Good enterprise stories focus on specific angles, not general ideas. Enterprise is a piece or two of a story that’s in the news, with a fresh and interesting look. Consider the following four story ideas as pitched by students taking a news writing class. Each student planned to write an enterprise story about blood donations, prompted by a news story that the local blood bank was suffering a summer shortage.

Idea 1: Developments since the original story was published

Idea 2: Effects of the blood shortage on surgeries

Idea 3: Reasons people don’t give blood, focusing on certain age groups

Idea 4: Things being done to boost donation rates to prevent future shortages

What is your reaction to the four ideas?

Curiosity about next steps, about how we got here, about where else something is happening — all of these can lead to strong enterprise stories. You must originate ideas and think about the possibilities. Don’t be distracted by the logistics of how something will get done. Focus instead on all the things that make you curious. The rest will fall into place.

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