Stumped? Looking for a story idea? Check out this sampler
By Melissa Preddy
Sometimes you need a break from packages about the jobs market, the residential housing mess and dire industry news.
And sometimes – often – we stumble across kernels of great story ideas idea can’t support a complete blog post but are too good to overlook.
Click through these slides for a sampling of biz feature story nuggets you can dig right into or set aside for a rainy day.
Fires, technology & safety
From the wind-fueled conflagrations in Detroit this week to wild blazes raging from California to Colorado to Maryland, fire is a timely topic.
As with every other facet of life, someone is generating revenue from these flames. I recently did a profile, for example, of a firm of Metro Detroit attorneys who put in the time to be certified as fire investigators by the same outfit that credentials municipal officials. They can’t serve as their own expert witnesses but they can make sure scenes are handled properly and that evidence is preserved for use in civil suits.
You might get some good business story ideas from the local members of the Professional Fire and Fraud Investigators Association, for example.
Or, look into the contractors who handle privatized fire and EMT services. What’s their business model, how do they profit and how do they maintain quality?
Then there’s fire safety research – what’s going on in the chemistry or natural resources departments at your local universities ? Fire fighting technology, outsourced training, equipment, suppliers, contractors, insurance, scams – there are a myriad of “hot” financial story ideas available to time with the fall fire hazard season.
Fun with food trucks
Hate to admit it but I’m hooked on The Great Food Truck Race, a Food Network show that debuted a few weeks ago. Mobile chefs buzz around the country preparing items ranging from crepes to Vietnamese sandwiches to “The Behemoth” – a giant hamburger with two flattened grilled-cheese sandwiches forming the bun.
Everyone loves a quirky entrepreneur story, so scope out the food truck scene in your market. The Seattle Times did so and came up with this engaging piece, Food trucks in Seattle are hitting some bumps in the road, that goes beyond fluff to develop a substantive business story about the tension between mobile vendors and restaurateurs.
No matter how small your region, you can probably find a eatery-on-the-go to profile (along with a tipsheet about health codes and business rules for would-be proprietors). If not, how about mobile windshield repair, mobile pet grooming or other portable services.
Granted, this may be a great story idea for the spring, but if you peg it to end-of-year clearance sales you can investigate lawnmower exchanges later in the year.
The programs, some run by states, are in incentive for people to swap polluting mowers for electric ones. This USAToday article: Cities offer discounts on green mowers provides a plethora of background and ideas you can localize by talking with state and county officials.
States are looking for ways to cut emissions, though the EPA’s delay of rules that had been slated to take effect last month offers a little leeway. Check into any mower or other fossil-fuel appliance programs in your state and analyze the effect for consumers, retailers and taxpayers.
About the Author
I am digital director at the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, which I joined in 2009. Before that I was Online Community Manager for azcentral, the online site for The Arizona Republic. Before arriving in Arizona, I worked at Newsday where I was Deputy Business Editor. I was the small business editor at BusinessWeek Online. I teach journalists to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to expand and manage their networks. And I am a cofounder of #wjchat, a weekly Twitter chat about web journalism. You can reach me at Email: Robin.Phillips@BusinessJournalism.org
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