As I talk to people, looking for story ideas, I often have to wade through a lot of ho-hum suggestions before striking pay dirt. More frequently than not, those nuggets are buried in throwaway comments made as I am about to walk out the door.
When I edited UNC Charlotte’s magazine, I talked with deans, department chairs and staff to learn what students and faculty were up to. I’d ask about quirky or unique activities, research no one else was doing, initiatives that tied into the news of the day – fodder for stories that would make people pick up the magazine and not want to put it down. I’d hear about high-achieving students and honored faculty. Then as I’d turn to leave, there’d come the zinger:
“By the way, keep your eye on the Discovery Chanel. One of our engineering students recently got back from Morocco where he was making ancient weapons of mass destruction.”
Really?? Now that’s a story!
I tracked down the student and wrote “City Detroyer Ready to Roll.” It’s still one of my favorite pieces.
Sometimes the nugget comes during the interview itself. As I talked with the president of 3D Systems about advanced manufacturing in the Charlotte region, he told me he wants to “disrupt the status quo.” He also mentioned that the company not only makes the printers, its founder actually invented the process for 3D printing. That history of creative disruption became my lead in “The Future Looks Bright” that’s in the October issue of US Airways magazine.
The article that I just finished for the December issue looks at innovation. And by the way, Duck Tape is part of the story.
Did I just bury the lead?