Forums, in general, can be tricky for news coverage given their broad nature. But with some tips and easy tactics, they can be a gold mine for story ideas as panel discussions and interactive Q&A sessions are often packed with new information, crucial datasets, and detailed anecdotes that are equally, if not more, newsworthy.

Use this guide as a starting point the next time you struggle to find a story idea from any forums, especially on science and health, or need a little push in a creative direction.

Data or Trend Stories

Some speakers will provide statistics in their presentations, either verbally or in their slides, that can give rise to new stories or provide depth for other pieces you may be working on.

Additionally, there may be bite-sized reading materials provided in a forum. Sometimes event booklets and pamphlets contain snapshots of key statistics that can be used, perhaps, not as a standalone story, but as an interesting point that adds value to your piece.

Localised or Regional Stories

Keep an eye out for topics that are relevant or specific to the country you are covering or in, or ask questions during the forum that are related to your local context.

Expert Opinion Stories

Each speakers’ views carry significant weight, given their role as subject matter experts. Some may be regular commentators in news outlets, while others may have a substantial following on social media, for example, which can work to your advantage.

Sometimes these statements may be repetitive, or they may be stating the obvious, but the fact that they said it can, in itself, be newsworthy.

Get to know the speakers by reading their profiles and see how their expertise aligns with your interests. This simple exercise can give you a possible story angle and allows you to prepare specific questions that you can ask during the forum to produce that story in mind.

Editorials and Commentaries

The same points also provide excellent material on which to base a commentary or even an editorial piece. These forums present a wide range of views by experts from different countries that help broaden your perspective on the subject matter and add value to your analysis.

For those in radio and TV or producing podcasts and videos, such forums also provide excellent opportunities to get to know expert speakers and invite them for future interviews.

Media groups and publications looking to organise their own forums on health can also consider reaching out to these experts and inviting them as panel speakers to share their views with the group’s or publication’s target audience.

Anecdotal Accounts

Personal accounts may not stand as newsbreak stories on their own, but can add tremendous value, if you’re writing a feature article.

Such short stories are usually relatable to a broader audience, not just medical experts and journalists who are familiar with technical terms, but survivors of serious illnesses, their families, and the general community due to their human-interest component.

As a journalist, what better way to educate people and get more people engaged in health issues that affect their daily lives than through a well-written story.

Once again, there are a lot of excellent material that you can pick up from forums. Sometimes it is not about picking up breaking developments but rather ideas that will add value or give rise to other stories in the future.