Assignment: Find a Story Idea Using Social Media

Nov 26, 2012

This post has been updated for the Summer 2013 NPR Knight training group.

The assignment for week 2 of NPR Knight social media training is to find one original and locally relevant story idea by searching around on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube.

E-mail your story idea and how and where you found it to by end of day Thursday. 

(Using a Tweet or post from a local newspaper or other media outlet does not fulfill this assignment.)

Here are some tactics to use when searching for story ideas:



What are people in your area talking about and sharing? Use Twitter to find out.

  • Twitter Search: Make your searches pointed and try different combinations of words and spelling if you have a specific topic in mind.  Use advanced search by location to make sure Tweets are locally relevant. For example, here’s a search for “medical marijuana” near Los Angeles:
  • Twitter Lists: Use Twitter lists to find people that are local and talking about topics that you are covering. Use your own Twitter lists, and check other Twitter accounts' lists as well. Find out more about Twitter Lists in this helpful FAQ.



Reddit is a big online community made up of many smaller communities. There is a lot of everything on Reddit and most of what you see will likely not be of journalistic value to you. But there are gems that can lead to story ideas and news tips.

  • Check your area's Reddit community for ideas: For example, LA has its own Reddit: and Boston has its own Reddit: Look for Reddit communities by searching or by guessing. Every Reddit community can be found by finishing this URL: Check out what people are talking about in your area's Reddit community, and don't forget to check out the comments on the posts for additional story idea fodder.


People are using their phones to record video all around you. Find those videos and use them for story ideas using YouTube.

  • Search YouTube and filter by upload date to give you the most recent searches. For example, here's a search for "hurricane sandy new york" filtered by upload date.
  • Think about news happening in your local area right now and be pointed with your searches. For example, if there's a protest happening in downtown Boston right now, you might search "protest boston" and filter by upload date.
  • Find more advanced tips for searching YouTube for local news videos in this webinar.


There are over a billion people on Facebook sharing updates full of possibilities for stories.

  • Facebook Search: Did you know you can search public updates on Facebook? This feature allows you to search what people who do not have private privacy setting are saying. You can search directly from Facebook by filtering by "Public Posts." There's a site called Facebook Search that makes it a little bit easier. 
  • Facebook Groups: Search Facebook groups to find local conversations and sources, too.
  • Facebook Graph Search: Some of you may have access to Facebook's more robust 'graph search' which will give you even more searching capabilities on the site.


There are several different ways to search LinkedIn for story ideas

  • Search public posts and updates from members here. Filter by location, company, expertise and more.
  • Use advanced people search to find sources, and people that work at specific companies.
  • Check out local companies. Updates from all employees affiliated with the company will show up here, so you can see any updates about who has joined a company or recently left. You can also see job posts, so you can track if there are any big changes coming.

Email or with any questions about this assignment. Want inspiration? Check out 11 examples of stations using social media for story ideas in this webinar.