Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing

Scavenger Hunts: Digging for Dirt

Years ago, I put together a scavenger hunt for my friend’s bachelorette party. I couldn’t tell you if she had more fun hunting down the goodies or if I had more fun creating the list of outrageous items she needed to collect throughout the night. I can tell you that it was one of the most exciting adventures we have been on throughout our friendship. I’ll never forget the look on her face every time she found (or begged) for an item on the list from a complete stranger.

Scavenger hunts are often reserved for special occasions and themed parties, but in my opinion, scavenger hunts serve a purpose in the newsroom, too. Plain and simple: reporters are on the hunt for stories everyday – little do they know that the clues are practically falling in their laps.

One of the most common complaints I hear from my students in both my journalism and English classes is that they have “nothing to write about.” This is not possible. In fact, on our campus, news and views are everywhere you look. From event posters lining the hallways and sports teams grabbing national titles to a group of students protesting outside a board meeting and the inner struggles of everyday students, stories are practically writing themselves.

What every student journalist needs is a daily scavenger hunt. Each semester, I divide up my Journalism I students and send them off with a list. They have 20 minutes with 10 story ideas in the following categories:

  • Story Idea #1: Campus Event
  • Story Idea #2: Specific department-sponsored activity
  • Story Idea #3: Campus Life/Student Activities upcoming event
  • Story Idea #4: Library-focused story
  • Story Idea #5: Human Interest piece focusing on a student
  • Story Idea #6: Personality profile on a professor (note why the professor is newsworthy)
  • Story Idea #7: Cafeteria/food service focused story
  • Story Idea #8: Sports feature/event
  • Story Idea #9: Historical backgrounder piece about an aspect of campus
  • Story Idea #10: Spotlight on a campus club (note what is unique about the club)

 Along the way, they run into department secretaries (some of the most helpful people on campus), campus officials, students, staff members, and athletes. Just as my friend came into contact and befriended strangers during her bachelorette party, my students network and gather the most important item on the list – information.

 Sometimes, it just takes a good ‘ole 20-minute scavenger hunt to motivate us to see beyond the “nothing” that is happening around us.

– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Nov. 16, 2009

 © Shannon Philpott, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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