How To Find Story Leads

In News Research, one of our subjects at Macleay Journalism, we do an exercise early on that asks our students to find stories in the immediate world around them.

The challenge: spend the next week listening and looking and asking yourself these questions about everything you see.

Is there a story in that? 

What does that sign on the lamp post say?

What are those people in the queue behind me talking about - it sounds interesting, maybe there’s a story there?

What was it my cousin posted about on Facebook - I wonder if that is happening to other people?

Check your local paper.

Talk to your friends.

Talk to yourself.


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Did something happen to them or to you this week that might be interesting or newsworthy, even if it didn’t occur to you at the time?

The lesson is that what we think of as “stories” are everywhere - and sometimes they are sitting right in front of your nose, just waiting to be told.

As a journalist, this has happened to me many times over the years. One story - about a close friend of mine who I realised had an amazing story to share, if only I could convince him to tell it - began as a newspaper story and eventually turned into a television documentary and a book. On another occasion, I turned the sad loss of my beloved dog into a story about a different way of saying goodbye to a pet.

At Macleay we run real newsrooms at our Sydney and Melbourne campuses. And we find students learn quickly that they can turn events in their own lives or things they have learned from friends, family and colleagues into strong stories that we publish on our award-winning news website, Hatch.



Journalism student Tabitha in her Newsroom class pitching a story idea to her peers.


For example, in 2019 we had student Indi Brummelen’s story on an incident involving forced removal of fake eyelashes at a private school - a story she learned about from a friend of her mother.

Indi’s terrific story ended up making national news and was later published by Fairfax Media.

Similarly, student Rabia Khairi brought us a story from her own community - about a dating app specifically for young Muslim people. And sports nut Jesse Robertson took us behind the scenes of his own local football club for an entertaining story on moves to curb loud barracking from the sidelines. On a more serious level, student Fatima Halloum took us inside the hearts and minds of local Muslims after the Christchurch massacre.


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Of course, as journalists we need to cast our net far and wide and beyond our own lives - but as these stories all demonstrate, interesting and relevant ideas are very often staring us in the face. The essential key to being a good reporter is being curious about the world around you - wanting to know not just what is going on, but why.

At Macleay, we endeavour to develop this instinct in our students from day one.  

And in keeping with Macleay’s focus on real-world experience, we encourage our next generation of journalists to hone that instinct by seeing the world around them as an endless source of opportunity for great story telling.



Journalism student Talya editing a story for her Radio Journalism class.


Journalism at Macleay College

Students become working journalists from the first day they step into Macleay. They work on real stories in a real newsroom across all media platforms.

Journalism students are taught by industry experts that are up to date with the latest trends and are well connected in the industry.

Curious to know more about the Journalism programs at Macleay? Check out the student run Journalism website here. 

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