With July right around the corner, you’re probably gearing up to run your hot weather stories. Here are some ideas to get you started.
We definitely need to do stories warning people of the dangers of hot weather, but here are some ideas to bring that story to life.
Death: This may sound gruesome, but you can talk to your medical examiner and police to describe a situation where someone died from the heat in your town. When you zoom in and make the story human, people will sit up and take notice when you suggest ways to stay cool. And they might just do those checks on the elderly and other at-risk neighbors, friends and family.
Health: The flip side is to have a health official explain the best ways to beat the heat. Perhaps try a Q&A format to offer readers a quick way to take in the information.
Drugs: Find out out the heat affects the medicine you take. Do you need to keep medicine in a cool place? How does the medicine affect your ability to deal with the heat. Consider breaking out the drugs that are most affected by heat.
From the elderly to babies to pets, you can do stories that narrow the focus and bring useful info to your readers.
Elderly: Find someone who specializes in care for seniors and ask them to talk about the specifics for them. Then, you can do sidebars and breakouts on cooling places (libraries, community centers, malls, etc.) that will help folks stay cool in the heat of the day. You can also head to a senior center to do a “person on the street,” with mugshots and quotes from the seniors on how they stay cool.
Infants: New parents have so many questions on caring for their babies. Aren’t you supposed to keep them bundled? Talk to pediatricians for advice specifically for our littlest ones.
Kids & activities: If your child if outside playing sports or taking part in other outdoor activities, how do you keep them from overheating? Share advice from people who run these outdoor activities and from pediatricians. In August, when kids are practicing for football and other fall sports, you might want to revisit these tips. Also, consider other groups of kids who practice outdoors, such as cheerleaders, poms and band. I was once at a band competition where kids were literally fainting from the heat.
Pets: Be sure to do a 5 things to know about keeping your pet cool in the heat. You might even run a chart that offers tips from veterinarians about how the heat affects different types of pets.
Be sure to ask your readers for their heat-related tricks and pics. Here are some specific heat-related callouts:
Recipes: Ask readers to send in their favorite drink recipes and food recipes for keeping cool. You can ask for barbecue recipes (to help keep the kitchen cool), salad recipes, ice cream concoctions, etc. Run a few different recipe callouts at different times to keep the recipes coming.
Photos: Ask readers to send photos to show how they stay cool. You might also try a photo callout for old photos from record-breaking heat waves from the past.
Stories: Ask older readers to send stories of life without air conditioning, especially related to a record-breaking heat. It’s bound to shock younger readers.
There are dozens of business stories you can do, but here are a few ideas.
Outdoor workers: Find people who work outdoors to see how they beat the heat. You can organize the story as a list of tips from people who would know. These can be lifeguards, road construction workers, builders, etc.
Business boom: Find businesses that do their best when the temperatures soar, such as places that install and repair air conditioners, auto repair shops that deal with broken air conditioners, places that sell fans, ice, inflatable pools, etc. Ask how business is this year. Do they have any heat-buster specials? Check out the inflatable pool story idea from the Norwich Bulletin.
Business bust: When it’s really hot, do businesses offer specials just to get people in during the hottest times of day? Think of golf courses or mini-golf.
Restaurants: Do a story about any restaurants in town that offer outdoor seating. You might consider an alternative story format that lists the restaurants, hours, how many they can accommodate outdoors, etc.
Signs: How accurate are the electronic signs around town that tell you how hot it is? You might take photos of the signs within the same hour on the same day to compare, and then compare the temps to the real temperature and see which one is closest. You can use a meteorologist as a source.
Farms: How are crops faring with the heat? Talk to the ag extension office and farmers to see how the heat affects your area. How does this summer compare to previous summers?
HOW HOT IS IT?Here are some ideas to put this year’s heat in perspective:
Records: Take a look at the hottest days of the upcoming month or week. You can run a by-the-numbers showing the highest temperatures for each day and what year the record was set. Whenever you run a heat story, be sure to compare the temperature to record highs and lows.
Regional: Compare your temperature to other towns in your area, region, state, etc.
Really hot: Compare your temperature to the hottest places in the country or even on Earth.
You’ve heard the advice and the sayings. Which ones are true? Here are a five ideas, but come up with your own, too. You can run a weekly series on the bottom of your front page. Be sure to brand it and ask readers to send you theirs, too.
Hot enough to: Fry an egg on the sidewalk, melt ice, bake cookies in your car, etc. These present a nice video opportunity, too.
Don’t look directly at the sun: Does looking at the sun damage your eyesight? Check with a local eye doctor.
No sunburn on a cloudy day: People should know this by now, but you can talk to a dermatologist about skin cancer and the risks. I just read that we have more people getting skin cancer on their left arms because they have them hanging out of the car while they drive.
Spicy foods cool you: Check with health experts in your town.
Dry heat is better than humid heat: Again, check with health experts. Maybe meteorologists would weigh in, too.
When you run a heat story, send me a link to it online or a PDF, and I’ll be sure to share them.