28 Days of Story Ideas, #4: A Postal Holiday & Some Campus Mail Fun

Weird holiday alert: Today is Thank a Mailman Day! It’s a day worth going postal and paying homage to our increasingly cash-strapped mail service employees.

From a journalism perspective, there are a forever stamp’s worth of story ideas linked in some way to old school and new media mail delivery. Let’s use the holiday as a jumping-off point.

First, campus mail. When is the last time your news outlet angled for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the school’s mail services center? How many letters and packages does it handle each semester or academic year? What has changed about the center’s operations, if anything, in the digital age? How environmentally-friendly is the whole shebang? What does the center do with mail addressed to students who have graduated? Any rules or restrictions on what can be shipped in and out? And what is the oddest piece of mail to ever cross various employees’ eyes?

Second, outgoing mail. How much promotional material is created and distributed to prospective students, current students and alumni? Where are the strangest or most distant places they are sent? And what are the costs involved? Also report on the most famous mailings (or nowadays digital messages) sent out each year by your school: acceptance letters. Angle for a glimpse at their creation process and, if possible, the initial reactions of their recipients.

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Third, email and other online and mobile messaging services. The first thing that comes to mind in this arena is passwords. According to The New York Times, “It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail, Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts.”

Do couples at your college exhibit this sort of digital intimacy? How secret and sacrosanct do students consider their passwords in general? And in an era of Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Gmail chat, texting, Tumblr, Skype and Facebook, where does email rank as a communication method?

5For more ideas, check out 1 Million Story Ideas for Student Journalists, a quick-hit, unending, hopefully indispensable, fun, fun, fun digital story ideas fountain.

Also order a copy of my book Journalism of Ideas: Brainstorming, Developing, and Selling Stories in the Digital Age. Dubbed “the next new mandatory text for college journalists,” it features advice from hundreds of contributors, lots of digital storytelling tips, tons of story ideas and more than 300 games aimed at sparking you to come up with endless ideas of your own.

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Related

28 Days of Story Ideas, #1: Beyonce, Jay-Z & ‘Celebrity Courses’

28 Days of Story Ideas, #2: Super Bowl Commercials & College Ad Campaigns

28 Days of Story Ideas, #3: Groundhog Day & the College Routine

1 Million Story Ideas for Student Journalists

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