We have compiled a list of the best newspaper column ideas that will help you when you need inspiration for your next article.
When working as a reporter, there will be times when current events dictate your workload.
However, the ‘slow news day’ isn’t a myth and there will be times when you are expected to use your own initiative to seek out ideas for feature stories and news articles.
Most journalists have an eye for a news story and know how to dig into trending news to gain a new scoop.
However, when it comes to more long-form content, such as columns and op-eds, inspiration is not always forthcoming, even if you’re using the best apps for journalists.
That is why we have asked one of our bloggers (who also works as a reporter) to put together a list of column ideas that may spark of creativity next time you are stumped.
- 1. Subjects for Newspaper Columns
- 2. Self-help and Advice Columns
- 3. Give Sports a Different Angle
- 4. Opinion On A Story You’re Interested In
- 5. First-person Technology Articles
- 6. Read Your Letters To The Editor and Respond
- 7. Look to Social Media
- 8. Home And Garden Features
- 9. Consider Your Finances
- 10. Follow Up On an Old Story
- 11. Write an Explanatory Piece On A Big Story
- FAQs About Newspaper Column Ideas
1. Subjects for Newspaper Columns
University professor, Dr. Archana Bharti, succinctly observed that “there are as many types of columns as there are different aspects of life.”
As this is true, the below is not supposed to be an in-depth guide to all you need to know about column writing, but rather a brief glance over some of the ideas and subjects that may help you.
Obviously, we are not suggesting plagiarizing the articles linked below.
Rather, our hope is that the following list will inspire you to adapt your own story ideas into worthwhile columns.
2. Self-help and Advice Columns
Self-help and advice columns are always popular in newspapers. The key to producing one of quality is to find an original niche or viewpoint.
An example of an extremely well-done self-help column would be Oliver Burkeman’s writing in The Guardian. Her work saw her investigate ‘routes to mental health and wellbeing’. She wrote her self-help articles for over a decade, finally moving on from this work in 2020.
She wrote these articles under the title, ‘This Column Will Change Your Life’, which created intrigue and offered a unique selling point for her work.
3. Give Sports a Different Angle
When it comes to writing around sports, stories usually revolve around results and games. An interesting slant on this is to take a look at how issues are progressing away from the competition.
A good example of this is Tim Dahlberg’s recent column for the Associated Press entitled ‘Ukraine’s boxers in the fight of their lives’. Here he looked at former heavyweight champions, the Klitschko brothers, and how their lives have been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
4. Opinion On A Story You’re Interested In
When it comes to op-ed pieces, the key word involved is ‘opinion’. If you are not interested in a subject, or story, it’s difficult to share an opinion on it.
Searching your list of interests will result in a well of resources that is unlikely to run dry.
That is as true whether you are writing for the school newspaper or the New York Times.
Your unique point-of-view is what makes an opinion piece interesting. It will be even better if you are writing about a subject matter which you have a genuine interest.
This can be anything from, from horoscopes to who will be the next President of the United States.
5. First-person Technology Articles
Detailing your unique reaction to new technology makes for an article that is far more interesting than a simple tech review.
By doing this, you are informing your readers, but at the same time, you are stepping outside the template that the review format provides.
Veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg offered an example of this type of writing in his Vox column before he retired in 2017.
His articles offered more than a list of the features available on a new piece of technology, but rather, he wrote a diary of how that piece of tech affected him.
Learn more about the first-person point of view.
6. Read Your Letters To The Editor and Respond
Most local news publications have a ‘letters to the editor’ section.
If you are working for one of these newspapers, you can use this section as a treasure throve for idea generation.
Your column doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct response to one of the letters, but it can be inspired by them. These letters involve the subjects that are important to your readers, with some being responses to previous newspaper articles.
Therefore, you know that your column will be focused on a subject that your readers have a genuine interest in.
7. Look to Social Media
When the well is dry for columns, you should turn to one of your most valuable tools for modern news-gathering: social media.
On there, you are seeing what’s important to the people on your timeline.
At its worst, social media can be an echo chamber, which relays back the users views, without demonstrating any balance to a discussion.
However, at its best, it can keep you informed on the personal stories that are important to your community.
It is also a platform that is constantly evolving, which offers consistent opportunities for writers.
8. Home And Garden Features
We all have our interests around the home, so why not use your creative writing nous to share some of your expertise.
If you have a good idea for an article about how to get more out of your available space, or on the best herbs to plant in the garden, then share these ideas. There is a good chance that your editor will be glad you did.
You don’t have to wait until you are the editor of your own newspaper to write about the stuff that interests you. After all, that’s what feature articles are often about.
9. Consider Your Finances
Money and finance make for popular newspaper columns, as navigating our finances is something all of us have to do.
An interesting approach here could be to share a tip that has helped you. Alternatively, you could also write about a mistake you have made in regards to money and finance. These types of feature stories make for interesting reading.
Jessica Stillman is a writer for Inc.com and her columns focus on what she describes as “making work life (and just life) more meaningful, joyful, and impactful”.
Her columns often have a financial slant and may be worth checking out if you’re struggling for inspiration.
10. Follow Up On an Old Story
A worthwhile column idea that is often ignored is to follow up on an old story.
These articles have an existing reader-base, so can find a greater audience than some of the other ideas on this list.
You can take a ‘where are they now’ format on, or another approach is to look at how that story affected the local community in the time between then and now. This approach also works as a creative writing activity.
11. Write an Explanatory Piece On A Big Story
Not every news story is easy to digest. Some are complex and require some studying to fully understand.
If you want to become a freelance reporter but are struggling to pick a good story idea, do this work for your readers by writing an explanation piece about a popular topic in the news.
A recent example of this would be Julia Carrie Wong’s deep dive into the conspiracy theory, QAnon for The US Guardian.
FAQs About Newspaper Column Ideas
What should I write a column about?
As long as the subject matter is agreed upon with your editor, your newspaper column can be on any subject matter. Popular column subjects include sports, technology lifestyle, horoscopes, and current affairs.
In the words of Dr. Archana Bharti, “there are as many types of column as there are different aspects of life”.
How do I make my own newspaper column?
The best way to approach this is to discuss the subject with your newspaper’s editor if you are already working there. If you are a freelance writer, firstly find a publication that you think you are a good fit for, then contact them and pitch your ideas.
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