Sea slugs actually remember lobster attacks. College students think like old whalers. Gay men don’t want to be your pet. And is dramaturgy a cool word, or what?

But what do these seemingly random musings have in common? Each one is the gist of a compelling, high-interest story about the research, culture and zeitgeist at Chapman University. They are exactly the kind of stories about dynamic people and work that we love to share on our university news blog

But each of those stories almost went unnoticed and unblogged. Yes, unblogged; not a real word – yet – but cut the old media hack some slack here.  Old-fashioned news hounding helped bring these stories to the surface.

Most of the time we are bursting with great stories about our researchers, programs, faculty and students. Our community is great about sending us news from their departments. Still, some of our best stories were discovered by accident or serendipity. Sometimes just because someone gave us a call or stopped to talk.

Dogged determination turns up some good stories.

Dogged determination turns up some good stories.

So how to help? A few tips:

  • Surprise! We really do love being cc’d on those emails listing everything that everyone in the department did or published last summer. That’s how we learned about this sea slugs and lobsters research story, which was also re-purposed for Chapman Magazine.
  • Weird or obscure? Bring it. We received a two-sentence brief for our Faculty News column announcing a professor’s award for a research paper. But there was something about the title, so we dug deeper. Great blubbering fun followed with this story about the economic behavior of whalers. When we entered Happenings into a CASE District VII contest, we used the link to that story as an example of how we use the news blog to write about research in a mainstream style for a general campus audience. We won gold that year.
  • Chat us up. Small talk with the chairman of the Department of Theatre sparked this story about a new dramaturgy class. It gave students something fun to share on Facebook and doubled as a promotional advance piece letting the campus know about an upcoming play. Much more engaging than an announcement blurb. And we got to say dramaturgy, which is always good fun. (We don’t get out much.)
  • Brag about those students. The speech and debate coach sent a note listing all the team awards from a recent competition. Deep in the list was one award for a first place in the category of “After Dinner Speech.” Hmm. Competitive after dinner speaking is a thing? That led to a post about a student’s humorous and award-winning take on the subject of gay men as fashion accessories. The student went on to be featured in our TEDxChapmanU event and his talk continues to be one of our most popular on the university’s YouTube channel. He also became a Chapman Magazine contributor.

Of course, every story idea isn’t going to lead to a magazine cover or viral video. But these kinds of conversations build relationships, alert us to what’s going on in your department and help us better understand your expertise. And sometimes together we find a new story none of us would have found on our own.