media update’s Nicole van Wyk explains how what was once considered a place for mindless chatter has transformed into an inspiration station.

As a journalist, it is important to always keep your finger on the pulse. This way, your story develops and remains true to its original form. 

Alright, that was a mouthful! Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s define a water cooler conversation: It is an informal discussion between co-workers about topics that aren’t necessarily work-related. 

“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture,” said Allen Ginsberg, the American poet, philosopher and writer.

Think about how pop culture develops: participating in everyday conversations is how most journalists determine what their audience would consider to be newsworthy. 

Media practitioners have these discussions among themselves and sometimes draw inspiration from them. These conversations are framed in the news based on the initial thoughts shared during these chats.

Why is a water cooler conversation so beneficial to a media practitioner?

The deep background of a story is what a reporter uses to fill in gaps and provide a better framework for a story. You need someone who is willing to divulge information that will catapult your story in the right direction. Who better to consult than your colleagues who work in the media industry?

You can gain insightful and varying perspectives off the record. Journalists are rarely afforded the opportunity to tell their side of the story because they are encouraged to remain objective.  So, think of these conversations as being exclusive stories with facts to back the chats. 

Why these conversations should be encouraged in the newsroom: 

  • Establish honest and transparent co-worker relationships. Colleagues will feel more comfortable approaching each other for help and work-related advice without feeling intimidated. 
  • When colleagues are more approachable, it creates room to collaborate and contribute to fellow journalist’s story. This way you can sit down and brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. 
  • Take off some of the pressure that comes with working in a newsroom. It promotes a sense of calm and makes it easier to discuss things outside of work. There is always potential to use the background of something shared during the conversation as the basis of your story.
  • Face-to-face engagement is very different to email correspondence. You can detect the tone and body language of a person. This will help you to produce more emotive stories that will, most likely, be more relatable to your readers. A technological connection is sometimes impersonal, but a one-on-one chat is a lot more real. 
  • Social listening is so important. Social listening is when you engage in conversation in hopes that you will be able to take away clues that give you insight into what people are interested in or what is popular. You can get down to what is being relayed on the ground and find out what is considered as topical at the time. 
  • You might learn something new. The media industry is extremely competitive, so you’d better stay ahead of the game by producing fresh and innovative content like clockwork. If you join in on these chats, you’ve got half of the work already done. 
  • Believe it or not but it can be therapeutic. Getting something off your chest can lead to creative output ? that is the bottom line after line after all. 
These conversations can include anything from political debates, entertainment news updates, the state of local and international economics, tech gadget developments, hot takes on lifestyle choices, the list is endless! You can take anything and turn it into a masterpiece. From the water cooler to the front page. 

Do you find water cooler conversations to be helpful during your writing process? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Creating new spaces to share story inspiration for existing media practitioners is just as important as Unlocking the entertainment industry: Newcomers and Legends.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy