How to build your own news network

Every journalist needs to build their own news network to help find story ideas. This Storify will focus on the tools that are essential to finding, sourcing, verifying, and saving information.


  1. Journalists need to develop their own networks to stay on top of news. Contrary to popular opinion, editors don't spend their days farming out work to reporters! Reporters are expected to generate their own story ideas and to pitch those ideas to their editors.

    This means that reporters need to keep up with current events and develop their own "nose" for news. The best way to do this is to build up a personal news network which will help you stay on top of current events and breaking news and/or your assigned beat.

    Success in the newsroom depends on your ability to find story ideas and sources, and sometimes it's as simple as finding local angles in national stories, or national angles in local stories. 

    Some types of stories can literally be seasonal. When I started out in journalism in the late 1980s, I used to look at copies from the previous year's newspapers to find out what type of stories were published at certain times of the year. That kind of research is much easier now on the web. 

    Paul Bradshaw talks about three key tools to building your own successful news network: RSS feeds, social networks and social bookmarks. 

  2. However, I believe there is a fourth component - trend watching. So here, with a nod to Paul, are my four tools for building your own news network: 
    1) RSS feeds
    2) Trend monitors
    3) Social networks
    4) Social bookmarks

    This post will look at RSS feeds and Trend monitors.
  3. RSS Feeds
    Let's take RSS feeds first. RSS, which stands for "really simple syndication," is really, really simple to use. You "subscribe" to the RSS feed from a selected publication and the content is then saved in an RSS reader for anytime access. For example, instead of using Google News alerts and watching your inbox descend into anarchy, you can subscribe to a news alert and the resulting content can be pushed to your Gmail account. 

    Of course, you need to have a Gmail account in the first place but Google's range of products are must-haves for any working journalist today. You can find the "Reader" settings underneath "More" on the top menu in your Gmail account. 

    RSS feeds are the unlovely mutts of the internet. Decidedly unglamorous but oh, so hard-working! Think of them as your own  personal news hound, constantly working, fetching stories on whatever topics you choose. 
  4. My Google Reader home page (above).
  5. But don't take my word for it! Check out British journalism educator Andy Bull (below).
  6. MMJ Masterclass 35: Getting started with RSS feeds
  7. Like Bull, I believe that the smart, effective use of RSS feeds can help you build your career. Let's say you're interested in Long Island news (and you should be if you're in my class!), you can use Google Reader to search for stories on or about Long Island. Follow these three steps to get to the search page.
  8. Click on "Browse for Stuff" (below).
  9. google-reader-browse-storify
  10. When that page opens, click on "Search," (below).
  11. google-reader-search-bar-storify
  12. When the search page opens, go down to "Track keywords and searches." It's a peculiarity of Google that eBay is the default source, so make sure you change this to one of the other three options. Unless, of course, you want to do some shopping!
  13. google-reader-alerts-storify
  14. We're going to use Hempstead in all these examples, so create a Hempstead feed in these three options. Once you've created those feeds you'll see the menu on the left expand to include your new news sources. That's the simplest part over with. Alternatively, just click on the RSS icon anywhere you see it. For example, here are the RSS icons for Newsday's local news. 

  15. You can click on each RSS symbol which will give your a log-in or it will take you to a page like this:

  16. newsday-rss-nassau-storify
  17. If you are directed to a page like the one above, you need to copy the circled text and paste it into your Subscribe button in Google Reader. 
  18. newsday-rss-subscribe-storify
  19. And voila! You're now subscribed to Newsday's RSS feed, in this instance, for Nassau County which will give you a page like the one below.

  20. newsday-rss-feed-saved-storify
  21. Trend monitors
    Trend monitors are web-based tools for checking what topics are trending on which platforms. I'm using three examples below, Twitscoop, Google Trends and Yahoo Trends

    Twitscoop - which displays the popularity of trending topics on Twitter - is fun to use. The site resizes words in real time depending on the popularity of the trending topic on Twitter. The Twitter interface is also useful for seeing what topics are trending where, but Twitscoop is just more fun to look at.

  22. twitscoop-trends-storify