Slow Newsroom Around the Holidays?

By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Blogger

Let's face it, if you cover City Hall, the Statehouse or any government organization for that matter, getting a hold of people around the holidays can be pretty difficult. Whether it is a few weeks without a returned phone call or a few days without an e-mail response, getting in touch with anyone around this time of year is a little tricky.

Sounds like a great time to lay back and relax, right? Well, why not take advantage of the time? Here are some suggestions on how to spend the "down-time" being productive:

1. Investigate. One of the biggest complaints journalists have is that there is never enough time for a story. Well, now is your chance to dig-in and read or at least skim that 1,000-plus page report on the school system. Or maybe it is a database of contractors the city uses that you want to search through and wrap your head around. Now is the time to do that. Someone at the city or the school district may not be available for contact, but when they are you will be more than prepared to ask the tough questions.

2. Experiment. Whether you are producing a newscast or a reporter covering a holiday travel story, use the opportunity of covering something a little less "newsy" to try something new. Whether it is a new stand-up or a new online tool to incorporate in your broadcast, trying out something new is a lot easier to do with a story on Christmas than it is on a breaking news story where several people have lost their lives.

3. Reach out. People love coming together on the holidays. People also like an excuse to get out of the office. Why not give it to them? Is there a contact you have been dying to reconnect with? Let them know and invite them to get coffee or lunch or a drink. People are busy around the holidays but it may also be the perfect excuse to get in touch with them -- the year is ending and you want to catch up!

4. Branch out. Have you always wanted to cover the education beat? Or maybe you have been dying to cover city government? In news, the holidays also mean short-staffed newsrooms and lots of vacation requests. Use this to your advantage and pick up the extra shifts, even if it is not something you would normally do. Try out the morning news or maybe you want to see what night-side is all about. Always ask permission first and who knows, you might find a new favorite beat or shift!

5. Learn. Everyone has a story that they just cannot forget about. Sometime you are left always wondering if there is more to it than what was reported or that authorities let you know about. Now is your chance to see if your inclination is true. Reach out to an expert in that field or pick up a book about the subject. Research what other news organizations have covered related to it, contact the reporter who wrote the story to see how they went a little deeper. The more you learn the more you can tell your viewers.

The holidays are fun and people tend to be happy or looking for an excuse to be happy. Give it to them. Happy Holidays!