It’s said in my business that a good reporter needs a “nose for news,” the ability to find stories in overlooked places.
So, naturally, I wanted to see if my new crop of college journalism students had functioning olfactory systems that could sniff out a story.
I looked over my left shoulder, to the clock on the wall, and the minute-hand had crept past 10 a.m. Time for the hunt to begin.
The Power Point slide flashed its welcome: “Welcome to class. You’re one step closer to becoming a reporter. Did you bring your Nose for News?”
I told the students they had exactly one minute to pair up, find notebooks and race for the door. In 25 minutes, they would uncover as many stories as they could — right on the campus where they lived.
Their eyes betrayed their mistrust, as if to say, “News? In this boring place?”
I clapped my hands together, grinning my enthusiasm wide. The best reporters wear out shoe-leather looking for stories and knocking on strangers’ doors and running fearlessly into the world in search of Truth.
They zipped open bookbags, fumbled for spiral-bound notebooks, and clung to the hope that this wild woman in the front knew what she was asking them to do. And some of them tasted the adventure before it even began. They were hungry for story.
Others wore the look of defenseless children being sent into the forest to have tea with wolves. One student dropped his head in cupped hands before he took the first step from desk to door.
I patted his back. “Go on,” I coaxed. “You’ll be fine. Promise.”
And off they went, on a new adventure to prove to their teacher (and to themselves) that they could find news in the most unlikely places.
I saw them in the hallways and in the library and in the bookstore, asking the questions and scribbling the answers. I went with one student, who marched straight into the college president’s office. The freshman woman smiled and fearlessly asked the president’s secretary: “I’m on the search for news. What’s new with the president?”
With God-fidence, they gathered the news up like bouquets of roses and weeds and daisies and crabgrass. It was all worth considering, even the stuff with thistles.
My friend Carla knew I was sending my students on a surprise news-gathering assignment, and she asked me later:
“How long, do you suppose, before they realize that life really is news?”
Because the news is right there, under our noses. The best news we’ll read all day is right around the corner, just down the hallway, tucked under the blankets, running wild toward the schoolbus. The best news all day is the nurse in the NICU, the farmer in the field, the girl in the gallery, the boy with the basketball.
It might not make the front page tomorrow, but the best stories are written in Living Letters, inked red on hearts.
And you and I? We’re the reporters.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it. We have breaking news. And is it ever good.
Grab your notebooks.
Find your story.
It’s waiting to be told.