We did a unit in journalism school today on where news comes from...and story ideas.
It was for the U T S C joint journalism program with Centennial College and this was week 2 of school for our new freshman (fresh person?) class.
Where does news come from, I asked them.
Everywhere, they replied.
And they are correct.
Case in point: on my way into school today, I noticed a bunch of tiny brown birds twittering and chirping at the bridge from the Centennial parking lot to the building's 4th floor.
When I went down into the security office, the guard was chatting with a building maintenance guy about this small brown box behind the counter.
There was an injured bird in it, and they'd called the Humane Society to come and take it away. Apparently, they find little dead birds on a frequent basis outside the campus cafeteria of the building at 755 Morningside because these little birds fly in a flock and hit the glass and crash.
The Morningside campus is built with lots of glass windows. They may be great to let students study with lots of natural light, but not so good for the wildlife in the area.
I think: STORY! STORY! STORY! STORY ! STORY!!!
I asked the security guard if I could see the bird, and take a picture with my Iphone since I thought perhaps one of the students in the senior year might do a story about this.
I went up stairs and excitedly revealed my findings to the senior students in the newsroom. Maybe they thought it was lame. But I persevered in my pitch: certainly it is worth a story in the Courier, the campus newspaper of Centennial College.
Birds + glass building = dead. Why?
Was the building built in a wildlife corridor? Did the architects not put stickers of scary crows or other predators on the windows, like they do at Toronto City hall and other downtown Bay Street buildings, to protect the birds, and scare them away? What about lights? Do the Centennial people turn the lights off at night, or lower the lights, in order not to attact birds? There is an agency in the city that works to help save birds from skyscrapers...perhaps our students should contact them.
In the end, some students went to get better pictures. Another said they could do a wider story about this issue in the next edition, about how it affects Scarborough as a whole.
So, from a bird in a box and an overheard conversation, comes a decent story idea.
I presented this whole chain of events to my freshman class today. Tomorrow, we go on a "story walk" where they will have to watch and see the neighbourhood around the school, and look for story ideas.
Why is this a good skill to have?
Because many journalists sit in the office and don't get out much to just "see with fresh eyes" and come up with story ideas. Editors are always looking for self starters--journalists who come up with new and different stories, so they, the editors, don't have to assign you all the time. And you, as a journalist, get to work on stuff that you are personally excited about. So everyone wins.
Now for the really wierd thing.
When I got home tonight, and looked on my back porch, there was a small black and yellow bird, dead, lying near my barbeque.
Maybe I am actually the cause of a rash of bird deaths occuring in Toronto today. They say journalists actually make up the news.....instead of reporting it. And no, I didn't bring the Centennial college bird home to show my kids. It really was a different, second fatality. I don't know if it hit our windows, or was left there by a cat.
Thanks to Angela Rotundo for the birdie pix.