Tips for Producing Great Trend Stories

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Trend stories used to be a subsection of journalism reserved for light features, like new fashions or a television show that's attracting an unexpected audience. But not all trends are pop culture-oriented and depending on where you're reporting, trends in your town may vary wildly from a city in another state or country.

There's definitely a different approach to writing a story about teenagers sexting than there would be for a story about a hot new video game. But both of those could be considered trend stories.

So how do you find a trend story, and how do you tweak your approach to suit the subject matter? Here are a few tips for finding and reporting on trends.

Know Your Reporting Beat

The more you cover a beat, whether it's a geographic beat (such as covering a local community) or a topical one (like education or transportation), the more easily you'll be able to spot trends.

A few that might pop up on the education beat: Are there a lot of teachers retiring early? Are more students driving to school than in years past? Sometimes you’ll be able to spot these trends just by being observant and having well-developed sources, such as parents in the school district or teachers.

Check Public Records

Sometimes a trend won’t be easy to spot, and you may need more than anecdotal information to establish what the story is. There are many sources of public information, such as police reports, and reports from government agencies that may help illustrate a trend that hasn’t been fully established yet. 

For instance, on the police beat, you may notice a lot of drug arrests or vehicle thefts in a given neighborhood. Could this indicate a larger crime wave or a problem with drugs flowing into the area?

If you’re going to use data from public records in your reporting (and you absolutely should), you’ll have to know how to file a public records request. Also referred to as an FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request, this is a formal request of a public agency to make available public information.

Sometimes agencies will push back against such requests, but if it’s public information, they have to provide a legal reason for not providing the information, usually within a given time frame.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Trends

Trend stories don’t just come from a reporting beat or public records. You may notice a trend just in your everyday activities, whether it’s at the diner where you get your coffee, the barbershop or hair salon, or even the library.

College campuses are a great place to observe trends, especially in clothing and music. It’s good to keep an eye on social media, although any trends you notice there probably will be noticed by hundreds of other people as well. The object is to track down whatever it is that's generating a buzz at the moment before it becomes old news.

Know Your Readership or Audience

As with any journalism, it’s important to know your audience. If you’re writing for a newspaper in a suburb and your readership is mostly older people and families with children, what are they not going to be aware of and what do they need to know about? It’s up to you to figure out which trends are going to be of interest to your readers and which ones they may already be aware of.

Make Sure Your Trend Is Really a Trend

Journalists are sometimes derided for writing stories about trends that aren't really trends. So make sure whatever you're writing about is real and not the figment of someone's imagination or something only a handful of people are doing. Don’t just jump on a story; do the reporting to verify that what you’re writing about really has some validity.

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Your Citation
Rogers, Tony. "Tips for Producing Great Trend Stories." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Rogers, Tony. (2021, February 16). Tips for Producing Great Trend Stories. Retrieved from Rogers, Tony. "Tips for Producing Great Trend Stories." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).