Archive for Story Idea


So many complain about how much the US imports from other countries. Yet, when a change occurs for the US to export, the story gets lost or ignored.

Well, that is not completely fair.

The Americus, Ga., media covered the event. NPR covered it. VOA covered it. Even the Economist covered it.

But the Atlanta Journal Constitution missed it.

It was: U.S. company exports chopsticks to China.

Yes, there is a giggle factor here but there is also a serious story of how US exports create local jobs.

Click here to see the search page for “chopsticks”.

Now look at these stories:

VOA: Chopsticks Carry ‘Made in America’ Label

NPRGeorgia Company Exports Chopsticks To China

WALP TV10Chinese will eat with GA chopsticks

Even China Daily picked up the story: US firm joins the dinner table

Now if I missed the AJC story, it was not from lack of trying to find it. (Here is the Google search.)

This is a small story. But it does have irony and — like I said — a certain “giggle” factor. But more importantly is shows that even in a small town a company can reach into a foreign market. That company can create LOCAL jobs that help the LOCAL economy.

More importantly, once you get past the irony, maybe (but I doubt it) some enterprising reporter might look at other small companies in the area that might be doing more mundane exports that also create or maintain US jobs.

Chopsticks to China is the hook for a series of larger stories it only people would look for them and look beyond the damned “Local. Local. Local” mantra.

The U.S. government is taking big steps to provide unfettered Internet access to people living under the thumb of aggressive censors.

And the technology has already been proven to help areas in the United States that are under-served by high-speed Internet connections.

Just as the U.S. government finances Voice of America to bring uncensored news to millions of people around the world, this new project seems to one that will have relatively little expense –about US$2 million — but  tremendous benefits.

This project sounds like a great opportunity for local journalists to use as a way to connect an international project — avoiding the censors — and a hot local issue — limited access to high-speed Internet in poorer areas.

U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors

One of the devices is very cool: The Internet in as Suitcase.

[The suitcase project] will rely on a version of “mesh network” technology, which can transform devices like cellphones or personal computers to create an invisible wireless web without a centralized hub. In other words, a voice, picture or e-mail message could hop directly between the modified wireless devices — each one acting as a mini cell “tower” and phone — and bypass the official network.

[The suitcase] would include small wireless antennas, which could increase the area of coverage; a laptop to administer the system; thumb drives and CDs to spread the software to more devices and encrypt the communications; and other components like Ethernet cables.

The project will also rely on the innovations of independent Internet and telecommunications developers.

“The cool thing in this political context is that you cannot easily control it,” said Aaron Kaplan, an Austrian cybersecurity expert whose work will be used in the suitcase project. Mr. Kaplan has set up a functioning mesh network in Vienna and says related systems have operated in Venezuela, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Reminds me of the efforts to smuggle photocopy machines part by part into Poland during the days when the Solidarity movement was banned by the then communist government.

The group that put together the Internet in a suitcase have  helped set up wireless networks in Detroit and Philadelphia.

Sounds to me that there are some serious local-global stories that can be done here.

I have argued with journalists and cajoled students into thinking globally with their local stories.

Here is an example of how a Washington correspondent for a  New Jersey paper linked Pres. Obama’s current trip to Brazil with very local issues in New Jersey.

First posted at my Journalism, Journalists and the World site.

Congratulations to Herb Jackson, Washington correspondent for the [New Jersey] Record.

He not only understands the idea that there is a connection between international and local events, he knows how to dig into the various databases to get the numbers to back up the link.

Obama’s trip to Brazil key to N.J.

He did what I and a few others have been arguing for a long time. He took information already on hand from the wire services, looked up some data and did some local interviews.

Without spending extra money to send someone overseas, the readers of the Record got a news story that was specific to their local area AND showed how the New Jersey economy depended on global trade.

This is called providing context.

It would be nice to see more LOCAL reporting like this.

Too often most Americans don’t know or care about global events. In part, this is because the U.S. media don’t show enough intelligence to provide the context of why understanding what goes on in Brazil or Japan or Germany means to the local reader/listener/viewer.

Again, congrats to Herb Jackson for being a good journalist who sees connections vital to his readership.

Voice of America has a great blog entry about the trials and tribulations of international students in the United States trying to figure out that whole love and dating thing.

Love and Dating for International Students

It’s clearly too late for Valentine’s Day, but who says this kind of story can only be written at a certain time of the year.

For college journalists, the cultural issues that exchange and full-time international students face is an excellent opportunity to inform the larger campus population of the diversity on the campus.

For journalists in the community press, this issue presents a similar opportunity to discuss and explore the diversity of the community. It is also a good way to air out some of the cultural differences that could cause friction between the immigrant community and others in the area.

There is lots of information journalists can get from the Census Bureau.

I just posted some data on the DC SPJ site about African-Americans that the Bureau compiled. It is well worth a look. There are some interesting numbers that could easily lead to several good feature stories.

Black History Month: By the Numbers