COM 351: Trend stories

Your fourth writing assignment is to write a trend story. The assignment is due Feb. 23. Elements of a trend story, guidelines and tips are below.

Look for a trend that has some social, political, economic or cultural significance. Find trends that are newsy if at all possible. Your story can be about a regional or national trend, but it must touch the lives of readers in Florida.
Trendwatching.com says places to find trends include:

  • Papers, websites, mags, blogs, books, news
  • TV, movies, radio
  • Customers, clients, colleagues, friends, family
  • Eavesdropping, chat rooms, conversations
  • Street life, travel
  • Friends, colleagues, family
  • Consultants, researchers, experts
  • Universities
  • Shops, museums, hotels, airports

Google analyzes search terms to help track trends. See Google Trends.

Here’s a trend story about male shoppers. It says males are doing more of the shopping in American homes, but are notoriously cheap, although not quite as cheap now as when unemployment was at its peak.
Trend stories touch on everything from the shrinking size of desserts to fashion trends for the fall.
Some people make their living trying to predict and identify trends. See video about Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute. Visit trendwatching.com, which says it has a network of trend spotters in more than 170 countries around the world. Or read a publication about trends. See Trend Hunter.
Trendwatching.com says there is a difference between trends and fads. The rising popularity of pet pigs and pizza cones – see CrispyCones – is “another manifestation that consumers want to be unique or crave convenience and surprise.” And that is a trend. But the products – pet pigs and the pizza cones – are fads, the website says.
Elements of a trend story include:

  • An interesting lead. Hook the reader right away.
  • Quotes from people who are part of the trend and not mere bystanders.
  • Credible sources. Interview and quote experts who help tell your story.
  • Attribution. Cite sources of key information in your story.
  • Quality writing. Take extra care to make your writing fresh, colorful, interesting, concise and informative.

Tips:

  • Google your story topic to see what else, if anything, has been written. Your goal should be to add to the conversation or debate about your topic, not rehash what’s already been covered.
  • Don’t leave unanswered questions in your story.
  • Be specific about who is part of a new trend. If some college students are grinding up caffeine tablets and putting them in their alcohol-laced energy drinks for an added boost, make sure your story does not say that everyone’s doing it.

Guidelines:

  • Please type your story, print it out and give me a copy of it on Feb. 23.
  • Do not post your story to your blog yet. Wait until I grade it and give it back to you.
  • You are not allowed to interview friends, relatives or family members.
  • Your topic should be of interest to Florida readers.
  • You may conduct interviews in person or by phone or by email.
  • You must shoot or obtain a photograph to illustrate your story.
  • Make sure your interview subjects know that the story will appear online for the world to see.
  • Your story must include interview subject’s first and last name, job title or occupation, age and town of residence.
  • You must talk to and quote at least three human sources who are knowledgeable about your subject. You must not use anonymous sources unless I give you prior approval.
  • Your story should contain at least 500 words. Include the word count at the bottom of your story, please.
  • Include your email address at the bottom of your story so that readers can contact you.

The assignment is worth 10 points. Be aware of these point deductions:

  • 1 point off if you don’t cite at least three human sources that you interview
  • 1 point off if you misspell the name of a person, company or organization
  • 1 point off if you have five or more AP style errors
  • 1 point off if you don’t meet the 500-word minimum
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