Using online event calendars for stories

By DEBORA RUBI

An important aspect of writing great articles is finding great topics about which to write. The Internet is a great quick way to find out what is going on in a neighborhood that would be worth covering by reporters. The Internet has succeeded in creating multiple sites that provide event calendars of a broad range of events going on in the area.

These event calendars may be hosted by visitor bureaus (http://www.miamiandbeaches.com) or by local publications (http://www.miaminewtimes.com). There are hundreds of websites dedicated specifically to finding events online, these two, however, are usual the most prominent in South Florida.

Clearly, the main use of these websites for the public and reporters alike is to find interesting events to attend. So, let’s begin by using the http://www.miamiandbeaches.com site to find something interesting to cover on a dull news weekend.

Searching through the calendar, you can choose a date and subject to search up. The default setting is to search for the next month. For this example, the subjects will be art festivals and exhibits as they are the most likely to be constantly changing — making for more interesting stories.

There are multiple listings of new galleries in town.  The key here is to find galleries that have just opened (for example, while the Cuban Jews exhibit is unique, it has been running for about one year. The likelihood for a good story idea is low since many stories have already been written about it.

We find one of interest: Demons Nurture/Nature that began its run on Sept. 1 in the Frost Museum at Florida International University. The work, based on Dostoevsky’s Demons is a set of ceramics exploring demons while expressing one’s own role in the world. This is important in a couple of aspects. You can either just attend the gallery or review it (which will most likely already have been done) or you can go more in depth either on the subject or the artist. You can use this exhibition to do further research on the artists work, work on demons, or local art based on literary works.

Now on the Miami New Times site. Using the Miami New Times site involves doing a bit more research as it is likely that many of the events listed may have already been covered by the publication. A lot of these events, then, should be used more as a springboard for a bigger story.

So, let’s do a search to see how the site could be used. At first, the site includes the top events of the next week, including a movie at UM’s Cosford Cinema, a German expressionism film festival, and a bike beer crawl. If you want a more specific — or longer time period — search you can go to the left hand column and find something to cover.

The search — set for Sept. 25 to give the reporter a week to prepare — first includes recommended sites (most likely already covered) and more events at the bottom, which may be less known and/or covered. Most of these items already include a news story so you have to go later into the search.

Towards the end of the search, there are daily events that fit your search that usually don’t include an article, an interesting one among them is a flying trapeze school. This could lead to a nice profile story in the school or a participatory article about personally taking the class.

These sites are an effective way to find something interesting going on in the city and are especially useful if looking for ideas for stories for a travel publication in which local events and activities could be highlighted for visitors or new residents.

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