Show and Steal: 11 ideas you can take from the best feature journalists

September 18, 2018

Up for grabs: beer brackets, a queso hunt and a tasty records request.

Show and Steal is a popular recurring presentation at the annual Society for Features Journalism conference, held last week in New Orleans. The nation's best features writers and editors submit their favorite replicable work, which is presented rapid-fire in a series of slides.

The name is pretty self-explanatory, with attendees looking for ideas to take back to their own newsrooms.

Find anything you could localize? Highlights included:

  1. Cinco de Queso: The San Antonio Express-News celebrated with a search for the city's best liquid cheese gold.
  2. Local and fresh: NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune created a permanent URL for farmer's markets, accompanied by a guide to seasonal produce so readers would know in advance what they might look for to add to their weekly meal plans.
  3. Local flair: In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, LPN/Lancaster Online's once-a-month-ish food feature typically gets high reader engagement, especially on Facebook, as community members sound off on their relationship to that week's selection. 
  4. Audiences gobble it up: The Star Tribune in Minneapolis has run a black-and-white turkey illustration around Thanksgiving every year for three decades. Children color it and send them back in, part of a long-standing Minneapolis contest. 
  5. Local residents, national shows: The Naples (Florida) Daily News highlighted a contestant on "The Bachelorette" before and after he went on the show. Residents love a TV "star": this story took off on social media. Look for people in your area tapped for reality shows.
  6. Grappling with grackles: In Austin, people have a love/hate relationship with the populous, raven-like grackle. Austin 360 decided to take a hard look at the feathered frequent flier with Grackle Week. What annually invades your town, and how can you treat it a little differently this year?
  7. Brackets and drafts: Whether it's the San Antonio Express-News forcing chefs to draft (get it?) the city's best fast food during the NBA selection process, or the Star Tribune pitting local brewed beers against one another, these papers localized national sporting events, whether they were from a brewery or a drive-thru window.
  8. Not just famous, but internet famous: How many people in your community have some degree of internet fame? Today.com has had great success partnering with internet influencers, viral content creators and folks with massive followings to greater spread their reach.  
  9. In the know: Restaurant inspection reports are public record, and New Orleans is a foodie town. Need we say more?
  10. Home is where the money is: House-shopping? Or rubber-necking? Either way, the Star Tribune is taking advantage of readers' love of seeing how other people live by featuring in-depth stories and photo slideshows of expensive and/or quirky homes for sale in the area.
  11. Best marathon ever: Find the best X food in town (in this case, donuts). Map your locations out. Stretch. And go! 

Have a few ideas for us? Let me know at ballen@poynter.org and we may add a few or even another article. Thanks!