28 Days of Story Ideas, #6: Reporting on Your Campus Like It’s a Foreign Country

It’s time for some faux foreign correspondence work. Follow in the footsteps of a funky Slate series “in which American events are described using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries.”

The gist: For the series, Slate staffers report on national traditions and icons such as Thanksgiving, the State of the Union, Duck Dynasty and Michael Bloomberg as if the staffers were outsiders with only a smidgen of understanding about their essences and quirks (vis–à–vis how our media reports on icons and traditions away from our shores).


One example is a recent Super Bowl preview. As Slate wryly notes about this athletic spectacle, which undoubtedly seems strange to many foreigners:

“This Sunday, the eyes of millions of Americans will turn to a fetid marsh in the industrial hinterlands of New York City for the country’s most important sporting event—and some would say the key to understanding its proud but violent culture. … Although the rules are complex — this video offers a brief overview — in broad strokes the contest involves two large teams of large men wearing large amounts of protective padding attempting to move an oblong ball down a 91.44-meter field by either throwing it or running with it while their opponents attempt to knock them to the ground with maximum force.”

Report in the same purposefully-ignorant fashion on major events, individuals and traditions at your school. The goal of course is exposing the underlying oddities and complexities that the campus community takes for granted or accepts as perfectly normal. Don’t be mean-spirited or Borat-level absurd or dumb. But truly dive into the idea of seeing old rituals — from homecoming and Spring Break to course selection and commencement — through fresh eyes.

Similarly, engage in actual foreign correspondence work (or in this case, off-campus reporting). Seek out regular Joes and Janes near and far from campus, asking them what they actually know about your college or university. It might be interesting to assess the depth or superficiality of their collective knowledge base. Bottom line in this regard, what do individuals unconnected to your school know — and think — about it and its many traditions and routines?

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.




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

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

28 Days of Story Ideas, #5: ‘Saturday Night Live’ & the Party AFTER the Party

1 Million Story Ideas for Student Journalists

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