At work, the editorial team and I used to have a document called, well, "The Doc." The Doc was a Google Sheet where we placed all the stories we intended to cover and we simply went through the stories in order. We broke the order if an important story broke that needed to get into the app and into Top News right away, but besides that we went in chronological order. Stories first on the doc were first in the app, and we did our best to ensure that we placed stories on a wide variety of topics and from a wide variety of sources on the doc. It doesn't look good in the feed when there are too many stories in a row from one source or on one topic and we don't want to come across as an app that favors certain topics or sources.
Filling the Doc Was My Favorite Thing to Do
I thoroughly enjoyed "filling the doc," as the task was called when The Doc needed to be refilled and I was good at it. I could easily find 30 stories in 30 minutes for the doc, maybe more. One way I was able to do this was that, at all times, I was fully aware of 90 percent of the stories we covered in the past 24 hours. The knowledge meant I didn't have to spend as much time checking for duplicates, since I just knew whether or not we had the story. The only time I would check for a duplicate was if the story I found was an update to a previous story or is part of a developing story. With developing and ongoing stories, it's much harder to keep everything straight versus a one-time story. Another tactic that made me so efficient was that I utilized Google News to find stories from credible sources on specific topics. I would search terms like, "North Korea," "marijuana," "sex" and "space" to find stories on those particular topics. Using Google News in this fashion was much better way than searching Twitter or following specific hashtags to find stories on these specific topics.
I loved "filling the doc." I loved encountering all sorts of different stories on all sorts of different topics. It certainly helped that I was pretty good at it too. It was especially thrilling to find a "gem," an interesting, well-written and/or very important story that hadn't yet become a big deal or that wasn't being covered by other/more mainstream outlets. Two "gems" that I personally found were the Ice Bucket Challenge and the first photos of Officer Darren Wilson in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. I ended up on the Ice Bucket Challenge early because Michelle Wie was one of the first celebrities to participate in the challenge, and since I'm originally from Hawaii, I care about everything Michelle Wie. I wish I could claim being on Michael Brown story before it turned into Ferguson and the subsequent movement, but I really don't recall coming across the story. The Darren Wilson photos I remember, since it took several days for the Ferguson Police Department to release his name, and photos were only uncovered on Facebook after the public had his name confirmed.
I Want to Bring This Back Somehow
I'm not quite sure how to bring back The Doc and in what capacity, but I think there is value in finding so many stories in such a short amount of time (more so than the fact that I enjoy the task). Part of that value is finding the "gems" before those stories become part of the mainstream conversation. Another part of the value is finding stories that wouldn't have become part of any conversation or wouldn't have come to the surface for exposure without The Doc and spending the time to find all sorts of stories. Typically, news sites showcase stories according to the same categories: World, U.S., Politics, Local, Weather, Business, Entertainment, Sports, Tech, Arts, Health, Science etc. Maybe Food, maybe Travel, maybe Cars, maybe Lifestyle to encompass several of the topics previously mentioned.
All news stories worth covering must fall into those categories. Very rarely is the Sports category segmented into football, baseball, basketball etc. unless you're a sports publication like ESPN, for example. Otherwise, it just gets filed under Sports. Only so many Sports stories can be covered or featured in a day. Because there are limits to everyone's time and attention regarding the number of stories to read and feature, only the most popular sports are going to be featured unless something really big, incredible or viral happens in a sport like lacrosse, climbing, rugby, ultimate frisbee etc, like rugby war goddess Georgia Page. Her bloody nose is awesome for a day, but the next time anyone is covering women's rugby and encouraging women to play the sport (which is what Page wants out of all of the media hype and exposure) is probably the next time another woman breaks her nose during an impressive tackle.
Let's Talk about What's Not Being Talked About Because Much of It is Probably Important or Interesting
Rugby is important and interesting to someone, and those someones aren't just people in the United Kingdom where rugby is a much more popular sport. Topics like design, books, social media, education, the environment, architecture and more don't have to be reserved for niche publications, in my opinion. There are plenty of stories that are worth discussing, worth knowing about and worth sharing in these topics. It seems like many topics only become important or only get covered when it easily comes with a salacious headline or an eye-catching photo or video.
Overall, news should be what you make of it and what you find important or interesting, not what the local television news says or what the mainstream media decides to cover or to air on primetime. It's only when the time is spent to scour the interwebs for those sorts of stories that the conversation can start on topics we don't normally talk about, for whatever reason.