It’s the Easter holidays and, for many of us, we’re back home from university. Some are jetting off for a well-earned Easter break (you lucky buggers). But no matter where you are, the wannabe hack in you needs to keep on sniffing out for a story.
Whether you’re in deepest Peru or buried deep in the Cotswold countryside, there’s always a story to be had. You just need to learn how to take advantage of wherever you are.
When I won a trip to Paris through ELLE magazine, I thought more about the Eiffel Tower than I did about interviews. My head was full of thoughts of croissants, Parisian vintage stores and a trip to the Musée d’Orsay.
However, I then quickly realised that my trip would coincide with the one-month anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. As the hotel I was staying at was located just off the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the French President, I was ideally suited for snooping around the heart of Paris for a reflective piece on the attacks.
If there’s one way to getting a broad and succinct view of local people’s opinions, it’s taking a walk through the nearest news agents.
In the newsagent chain Relay, I found stacks of Charlie Hebdo memorabilia and annuals, whilst other satirical newspapers like Le Canard Enchaine were also brought to the front of the store. And on that note:
I went to Paris with a pretty clear view of what I’d write on Paris in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, and then came away with a completely different angle, wasting research I’d put into the piece prior to coming.
If you’re visiting anywhere, don’t go with preconceptions. By all means go looking for a story, but keep in mind that you the story that you leave with might not be the one you expected. And besides, it’s always better to approach a well-worn topic with a fresh or quirky stance.
I’d have been lost In Paris if it hadn’t been for my bilingual companion, who helped with me with almost all of the interviews I conducted and who translated newspaper headlines for me.
And as well as taking advantage of my hotel’s location, I soon realised that a key interviewee was hiding in plain sight: our hotel receptionist, who over the past month had been privy to the effect the terrorist attacks had had on tourism and international perceptions on Paris.
If you’re travelling somewhere exotic and you’re not as lucky as I was to have with you a native speaker, make sure you pack a dictionary, even if it’s just for translating book titles or graffiti. And for wherever you are, a notebook and a recording device (I just use an app on my smartphone) are essential for recording vox-pops; one good quote can make an article.
So, enjoy your Easter holidays and all the good TV and discounted Lindt bunnies they bring. But remember that a good story can come from anything and anywhere- so keep your eyes peeled and those ears (not the felt bunny ones your mum’s making you wear) to the ground.