Bringing National and International Business Stories Home to Your Community by Linda Austin


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Linda Austin, executive director at the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business journalism, presents "Bringing National and International Business Stories Home to your Community" during the free Reynolds Center workshop, “Uncovering the Best Local Business Stories,” in Fort Worth.

The daylong workshop covered tips on how to find good stories in the business of government, how to cover economic-development agencies at the state and local levels, and how to find public information on private companies.

Presenters also discussed how to find stories in small business and publicly available databases, and how to localize national and international stories for your audience.

This free training was specifically geared toward community journalists and generalists on tight budgets and small staffs. A previous workshop by the same name was held in Lexington, Ky.

For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit

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  • For the next hour, we’re going to discuss one of my favorite topics – localizing national and international business stories. Why do I like it? Someone has already done half of the work for you – the story is already in the news, and there’s already an audience for it. There are no shortage of possibilities because as the illustration shows what? MONEY…makes the WORLD…go around. When you localize a business story, you are performing a valuable service by making the news highly relevant to your audience, simplifying the complex and bringing the news home to them.
  • Show of hands – how often do you localize a national or international story?
  • Our survey says….
  • Can we have some of those who said frequently cite the last story they localized – business or not – tell us a bit about it – what was the news, how did you get onto the story, where did you find sources, how did it turn out?
  • Here’s an example of business story localized by Steve Knight at The Lufkin News on unemployment rates. Tell us a bit about it – what sources you were able to get, what you wish you had been able to add.How many of you localize unemployment? Sources you’ve used?
  • Here’s where this unemployment data is available for – not just big cities (or MSAs), but Workforce Development Areas.
  • Here’s where this unemployment data is available for – not just big cities (or MSAs), but Workforce Development Areas. Click on these links take you to local people on the boards for these areas who can comment on local stats.
  • Here’s where this unemployment data is available for – not just big cities (or MSAs), but Workforce Development Areas.
  • Remember the 5 W’s and H of any good news story? Going to apply that to today’s presentation.What’s the “W” I left out? That’s WHO, and the WHO is YOU!
  • At least three reasons to localize national /international stories. Do a little picture association here, see if you can help me ID them.We have here fresh vegetables…. If you’re looking for fresh stories…Localizing can make for fresh angles and enterprising stories that distinguish you from your competitors
  • Example of a paper – Las Vegas Sun – that was enterprising in its response to the Japanese tsunami – what did the nuclear accident in Japan mean for 2 energy industries in is state – renewable energy and the Yucca Mountain storage plant for nuclear waste.
  • This dollar sign draws attention. What might be another reason to localize? These stories draw audience. They are crowd pleasers -- compelling and reader friendly. To your audience, nothing is sexier than a dollar sign!
  • Here’s an engaging example of a localized story about the national foreclosure crisis. Story from AZ Republic about shelters overflowing with pets given up by owners who’ve lost their homes to foreclosure in Phoenix.Any of you seen this in your area?
  • Money makes the world go around. Localizing simplifies the complex and bringing the natl/intl home to yr audience, making the news highly relevant to them.Think of other reasons in your experience when it makes sense to localize? Needing to fill a hole….
  • Here’s major national story highly relevant to important segment of the audience in all states, but especially in the South, where they are concentrated – black farmers. Last fall, the government agreed to a $1.5 billion settlement affecting 70,000 black farmers who were discriminated against by the USDA in the 1980s and 1990s. They could be eligible for payments of $50,000-$250,000 each.Any of you have large number of black farmers in your area? If so, still time to do something local on this settlement – deadline to file is May 11.How about an area with a lot of mortgage fraud and high foreclosure rates?Could look to localize $26 billion settlement state and local officials announced in February with five of the largest home lenders that could provide relief to 750,000  American homeowners harmed by housing meltdown. could receive restitution payments of around $1,800.Same principles apply.
  • First thing I would do if hit with a big breaking story like this would be to check tips from Melissa Preddy on our site. Blogs every weekday on sources you can use of localize breaking news or business-trend stories. All of her bylines are collected at this link; looking for story ideas – just browse.
  • Here are her tips on the black farmers settlement when it broke, including a link to the official website for the settlement. [Click for arrow.]
  • The official website has list of law firms representing clients. Check for local attorneys who can lead you to local farmers who have contacted them about filing a claim.
  • Another tip is to check with these two trade groups for black farmers to help you locate local black farmers. Good advice in localizing any local story – consult trade groups for help in finding local members.
  • Besides just Googling “trade association” and the name of the industry or type of person you’re looking for, you can also consult these two directories of trade groups. One is a search offered by – what else – the association of association executives. Yes, there’s a trade group for everyone.
  • The second directory for trade groups more interested in international trade is at the Federation of International Trade Associations.
  • Going back to the black farmers settlement, here’s a Raleigh TV station that did localize the story – took the easy way out – waited for a local meeting of black farmers organized by officials to explain the settlement and showed up with their cameras. Meetings listed on the official website, but none coming up in Kentucky.[Cue up video.]
  • We’ve talked about why. Now, we’re going to talk about where to find ideas, which according to the survey Tommy did was the top request – help in finding stories that have local implications.
  • Talked about why to localize. Now where to get ideas. At least 3 places to find ideas to localize stories.First one is illustrated by this sign I saw while driving home. Zig zagged across three lanes of traffic to take this pix. So this is an example of finding ideas by….. WHAT YOU SEEAll kinds of angles here – what questions do you have? From consumers’ viewpoint – cost and hours – to local vets’ reaction to competition from Walgreens.
  • Second and one of the more common sources of ideas is illustrated by this story in the NYT. It’s about how candy stores are doing well in the economic downturn. So, the second place to find story ideas is….What you see in the national media.How many of you have a local candy store or bakery? Worth asking if they’ve seen an uptick in sales.
  • Third place to find ideas is illustrated by this USDA report about farm-based recreation or agritourism by the USDA. [Click] Provides national facts and figures on the prevalence of it – 52,000 farms or 2.5 percent. How many of you have cornfield mazes, hay rides, pick-your-own fields and other local farms that welcome city slickers?So, another source of ideas is in the stream of press releases and reports that come across your desk.
  • Here’s a story by AZ Republic on agritourism in Yuma – right on Mexico border – one of the hottest places on the planet. Anyone know what crop Yuma is famous for? Lettuce.[click] Story quotes the report we just saw for the national context.
  • We’ve talked about why and where to localize. You’ll find once you peel your eyes to localizing – the options are limitless from the Greek debt crisis to the new season of Mad Men. Important to ask when it makes the most sense to do so. At least 3 occasions on which it makes a lot of sense. One of those occasions is illustrated by this Verizon story. Do any of you serve an area where broadband is hard to get and Verizon wireless is available? [click]So, this story – if localized – would have an impact on your audience. [click] Story says that Dallas, Nashville and Birmingham are going to get it first followed by anywhere Verizon has its LTE wireless network by the end of the year.
  • Here’s a second reason. Is hunting season big in your area? Is it the kind of thing everyone in town is talking about?[Click] If so, it’s a great one to localize because everyone in town is already talking about it. Who could you talk to about it for a story?Talk to area businesses that cater to hunters about what they’re seeing, sales up or down, trends in products, talk to state about hunting-license sales in your county.[Add slide on Angola deer harvest] -- Other stories can think about everyone has been or will be talking about? Royal wedding, Olympics.
  • Third reason is illustrated by this Minneapolis Star Tribune project. Looked at the aftermath of the credit boom that went bust and at least in their state, creditors have been particularly aggressive – some debtors have gone to jail, found criminals working as debt collectors.[click] Localize if you can bring something special to the coverage.
  • Simple tool from my colleague, Jacqui Banaszynski, Pulitzer winner and prof at Mizzou, to help think about how to localize.First, what is a stakeholder?“One who is involved in or affected by a course of action.”In this case, [click]the HUB of the wheel is the course of action or the NEWS.[click] The SPOKES are the primary stakeholders. The people who immediately come to mind that you’ve got to talk to, those who are most affected.[click] The RIM represents the secondary stakeholders. They are also affected by the news, but not as directly or immediately. Can often identify them by thinking of winners and losers, including who benefits from bad news. Among the secondary stakeholders during the Gulf oil spill were fisheries in other parts of country that benefited from increased sales during Gulf oil spill because of fear of Gulf seafood.In developing story, need to ask yourself what questions do those stakeholders have and try to get answers for them.
  • How many of you remember the big brouhaha about mad-cow disease a few years ago? Any cattle in your area? Would the location of mad-cow disease even in a neighboring state be a big deal to your area?So, the HUB – the NEWS -- is mad-cow disease has been found in a herd near Yakima, Wash. Say you are in a neighboring state. What are the SPOKES – the primary stakeholders – who are the people you’ve got to talk to immediately, those who are most affected.Who makes up the RIM – the secondary stakeholders – those who may be affected a little later or less directly. Think of winners and losers and those who might even benefit from bad news.
  • How many of you have had to localize rising gas prices? I know you did, Scott Sloan. What did you do?Talking to consumers, as Scott did, and this ABC reporter did is a time-honored way to localize this story. Like you to use the stakeholder wheel to come up with some different angles.So, going to ask you to get into four groups [Split people up.]I want you to brainstorm local angles on gas prices using the stakeholder wheel – and then going to ask you to report back.
  • Going to put up the stakeholder wheel for reference.[Click] the HUB of the wheel is the NEWS.[click] The SPOKES are the primary stakeholders. The people who immediately come to mind that you’ve got to talk to, those who are most affected.[click] The RIM represents the secondary stakeholders. They are also affected by the news, but not as directly or immediately. Can often identify them by thinking of winners and losers, including who benefits from bad news. [Get reports back; then show examples.]
  • Wise County Messenger story on the arrival of Chevrolet Volts for sale in the county in Texas.Flip side of smaller cars is larger ones – including RVs. Look for extremes.
  • Huffington Post story on increase in number of super-commuters because of poor economy. How are they faring with higher gas prices? Again, look for the extremes – super-commuters, Amish who use no gas.
  • AZ Republic story on how businesses are coping with rising fuel prices. Talks to florist that has replaced delivery vehicles with more efficient models, including Ford Transit Connects. [click]"They allow the height we need for some of our (floral) pieces without the cost of fuel from cargo vans," said Kristina Dyrr, vice president of Cactus Flower Florists.
  • Salem, Mass., paper looks into gas prices’ impact on service station ownerTry to get beyond generic laments about costs – ask the companies to give you concrete examples of how, say, a 50-cent-per-gallon increase X number of gallons purchased each month/year will affect expense ratios and profitability. And in turn, how will that affect expansion, hiring, pricing, purchasing and other decisions that affect their own suppliers, workers and customers? How are gas prices and forecasts factoring into planning for future vehicle and equipment purchases.
  • Tri-City Herald interviews Pasco, Wash., farmer about impact of gas, fertilizer prices on farmers.
  • Love the specifics in this Chicago Tribune story talking to a restaurateur. First, [click] he says fuel surcharges have pushed up the cost of running his business by 3-4 percent. Then he says, [click] to keep his profit margins from shrinking, he’s cut waiter’s hours. Strive to get those sorts of specifics from the businesspeople you interview.
  • Tampa Bay Times story on how makers of corn-based ethanol are thriving because of spike in oil prices. Who benefits from bad news?
  • Lexington Herald-Leader story in May 2011 on whether price of gas will affect tourism at Lake Cumberland. Couple of folks here from lake communities: Lake Whitney Views, Lake Cities Sun. What have you found happens to tourism when gas prices go up?
  • Don’t forget municipal stakeholders – also impacted by rising price of gas.MPG for fire trucks and school buses not so good.
  • Cronkite News Service story on impact of gas prices on trucks that collect for food pantries – Who are big users of gas in your community?
  • So, here’s what we’ve learned. Anyone remember why? Where? When? And the how is the simple stakeholder wheel: HUB, SPOKES, RIM.
  • Also, urge you to follow Melissa Preddy. Her posts are archived at this first link above. Can set up RSS feed to get her tips daily at the link below.
  • All of the handouts and PowerPoints from today’s workshop will be archived at and will add video from similar workshop doing in Texas. Send you an email when those are available.
  • Also, Thanks so much for coming today. Hope to see you at future free training online or in-person. Can check out our upcoming webinars and workshops at for those all-important evals. Thanks for your attention, participation and feedback.
  • Bringing National and International Business Stories Home to Your Community by Linda Austin

    1. 1. Localizing Business Stories 1 Photo by Flickr user p22earl
    2. 2. Linda Austin• Executive director, Donald W. ReynoldsNational Center for Business Journalism•Former editor, Lexington Herald-Leader•Former executive editor, The News-Sentinel,Fort Wayne, Ind.•Former managing editor, News & Record,Greensboro, N.C.•Business editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer•Staff writer, Dallas Times Herald 2
    3. 3. How often do you localize a national or international story?A. RarelyB. OccasionallyC. Frequently Photo by Flickr user kojotomoto 3
    4. 4. “Our survey says…” 4
    5. 5. What was the last story you localized?• How did you get onto the story?• Where did you find sources?• How did it turn out? 5 Photo by Flickr user Colin_K
    6. 6. The Lufkin News: local jobless rate 6
    7. 7. Texas Labor Market & Career Info 7
    8. 8. Texas Labor Market & Career Info 8
    9. 9. Workforce Development Areas 9
    10. 10. exaswda.pdf 10
    11. 11. What you will learn Why to localize business stories Where to find ideas When to localize business stories How to localize business stories using a simple tool called the stakeholder wheel By Flickr user dok1 11
    12. 12. Why localize business stories? 1. Fresh and enterprising 12
    13. 13. Example: Localizing the Japanese tsunami 13
    14. 14. Why localize business stories? 2. Draws and engages audiences 14
    15. 15. Example: Localizing the foreclosure crisis 15izona-animal-rescues-face-growing-need-foster-owners.html
    16. 16. Why localize business stories? Photo by Flickr user p22earl 3. Relevant 16
    17. 17. Example: Localizing the black farmers settlement 17
    18. 18. Tips from Melissa Preddy 18
    19. 19. Tips from Melissa Preddy 19
    20. 20. Tips from Melissa Preddy• The official website for the settlement:• Has list of law firms representing clients 20
    21. 21. Another tip: trade groups• The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association: http://www.bfaa-• National Black Farmers Association: 21
    22. 22. Another tip: finding trade groups• American Society of Association Executives search: ries/AssociationSearch.cfm 22
    23. 23. Another tip: finding trade groups• The Federation of International Trade Associations 23
    24. 24. Example: Localizing black farmers settlement 24
    25. 25. Photo by Flickr user kojotomoto 25
    26. 26. Where to find ideas: 1. What you see 26
    27. 27. Where to find ideas:2. What you see in national media 27
    28. 28. Where to find ideas:3. What you read in releases, reports 28
    29. 29. Example: Localizing agritourism 29arizona-agritourism.html
    30. 30. When to localize?1. Stories that impact your audience 30wireless.html.csp
    31. 31. When to localize?2. People in town are talking about it 31
    32. 32. When to localize?3. Youcan bringsome-thingspecial tothecoverage 32
    33. 33. How to localize:Stakeholders wheel HUB = News SPOKES = Primary stakeholders RIM = Secondary stakeholders Credit: Jacqui Banaszynski 33 By Flickr user dok1
    34. 34. Example: Who are the stakeholders? Primary (spokes) • Governments (state, national, foreign) • Beef ranchers • Consumers Secondary (rim) • Lobbyists • Meat processors • Food distributors • Butchers • Grocery stores • Restaurants • Health inspectors • Chicken, hog farmers •Schools 34 Credit: Jacqui Banaszynski
    35. 35. Exercise: Localizing gas prices 35
    36. 36. Stakeholders wheel HUB = News SPOKES = Primary stakeholders RIM = Secondary stakeholders Credit: Jacqui Banaszynski 36 By Flickr user dok1
    37. 37. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 37
    38. 38. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 38rise_n_1296488.html
    39. 39. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 39
    40. 40. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 40
    41. 41. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 41perplex.html
    42. 42. Gas: who are the stakeholders?• “Yiannis Melidis, co-owner of Pegasus Restaurant & Taverna, at 130 S. Halsted St. in Chicago, said fuel surcharges on such services as seafood delivery and garbage pickup have boosted the cost of running his business by 3 to 4 percent. Pegasus is absorbing those costs, but to keep profit margins from shrinking it has been cutting employees hours. A waiter who had worked 32 to 36 hours a week, for example, now works 28 to 30 hours a week.” – Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2011 42
    43. 43. Gas: who are the stakeholders? Photo by Flickr user lincolnearthday 43based-ethanol-crank-up-output/1155854
    44. 44. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 44prices.html#storylink=misearch
    45. 45. Gas: who are the stakeholders? By Flickr user Linus Henning 45
    46. 46. Gas: who are the stakeholders? 46food-pantries-outreach/
    47. 47. What you learned Why to localize business stories Where to find ideas When to localize business stories How to localize business stories using the stakeholder wheel: o Hub =news o Spokes =primary stakeholders o Rim =secondary stakeholders 47 By Flickr user dok1
    48. 48. LindaAustin• Executive director, Donald W.Reynolds National Center for 48
    49. 49. Tips from Melissa Preddy 49
    50. 50. Handouts, slides, video 50
    51. 51. Upcoming free training 51