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Localizing a larger story for The Rapidian audience

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Reporters can find stories to localize for Rapidian readers by keeping updated on national and global issues.

Reporters can find stories to localize for Rapidian readers by keeping updated on national and global issues. /Nicole Larae

From Rapidian staff*: As a hyperlocal news source, a main thrust behind The Rapidian is to cover the news and events that affect lives within the City of Grand Rapids, but there’s no denying that news happens outside these boundaries. Health care reform; recessional woes; new technology; and race, gender and sexual orientation issues often dominate the front pages of national news outlets. While these stories may seem bigger than our city limits, the issues are still important to the individuals within.

Knowing how to find a connection between a national or global issue and Grand Rapids—“localizing” a bigger story—is a key tool in any reporter’s skill set. And one of the easiest ways to localize a story is to start in the right place by finding a local expert on the issue. Professors from local institutions like Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University or Grand Valley State University can be vital sources, as can local governmental, non-profit, or private sector leaders. Once the data is presented to these qualified sources, the next step is to get input from individuals who are directly affected. If citizen groups have formed in relation to the issue, their input should be queried, too. Even other news agents can have relevant information. Reporters who have covered a beat for long enough can become experts in their own way.

If the issue you are reporting on has come up before, say, in decades past, find out who dealt with the situation then and get their viewpoint. If nothing has changed in the approach since then, ask why not? If this is the same issue and the same reaction is forming, why?

Localizing a larger story is one of the many ways a reporter can keep their angle fresh and relevant and avoid parroting the many news bureaus that have already shed light on the same angle ad nauseum. It’s also one of the easiest ways to find a story idea. Writers need to be readers first, not only to have a grasp of contemporary issues but to see the different ways to tackle an issue. Different newspapers, blogs, trending aggregators or social media outlets can all help a reporter with large issues to localize.

*Each week, a member of the Rapidian staff will publish a piece relating to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site.

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