Do’s and Don’ts of Hot Topic Writing

Sniper Alley
Copyright: The Other Paper 2010

I love a good hot topic article. It’s hip, current and tells me all I need to know on whatever everyone is talking, blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and Googling about at that particular time. Unfortunately, there are often more bad hot topic articles than good. To tell the truth, some writers/publications wake up, check Google or Twitter trends and start writing on whatever subject that’s moving up the interest boards. In an hour or two, they’ve got their piece up there alongside everyone else’s and it stinks. They hit every “Don’t” of hot topic writing:

Don’t Simply Rehash What Everyone Already Knows

  • It’s boring and lazy writing. Everyone is talking about it already. Find a new angle on the topic while other people beat the main points horse to death.

Example: The President visited my city recently – it was a big deal. Interrupting local programming to watch the plane taxi in kind of deal. He held a Q & A in a local family’s backyard – even bigger deal and that’s all anyone reported. We learned the family’s names, what the parents did for a living, what neighborhood the chat took place in – repeatedly. Even the broadcasters seemed bored with reciting the same thing all day.

DO Find a Different Angle

When everyone is talking about something – ask the questions no one is asking! When in doubt, try to take the story the local route. Is there someone local who’s been affected by or involved with the subject? Taking the previous example, one could try to find if there were other families in your area that had hosted a sitting U.S. president. You could also go the route of our local weekly, besting the big time daily paper here with a little digging:

The Other Paper found and interviewed the family that came in second to host the President. The story was interesting, hit a different angle and told readers something new about the level of security concern surrounding the President. Named “Sniper Alley,” the article let readers in on a security snafu that knocked the couple out of the running – a quiet, suburban alleyway that could have been a sniper’s paradise.

DON’T Force a Hot Topic on an Unwilling Audience

I could be wrong, but when people hit a online knitting  magazine, they are not looking for gossip about Snooki or any of those other Jersey characters. What may be a hot topic on The View can be wildly out of place in other media. Likewise, the latest college football shake-up may not play well with the fictitious Senior Medical Times magazine.

DO Tailor the Topic for Your Publication

This is similar to finding a different angle. Getting a little creative AND working a different angle can make a hot topic work for your audience. Senior Medical Times may not be interested in the mechanics of the Big Ten division split and championship game, but they would be interested in a story about recognizing and preventing deadly heart attacks during football games  – true fact: deadly heart attacks increase during games because men having the attack are absorbed in the game and ignore the warning signs.

Sure they score you points with your audience and Google, but tackle a hot topic the wrong way and you’ll find yourself in the slush pile or worse – with a completely irrelevant or stale article.

In my next post we’ll talk about more on hot topic writing. Got a good tip? Email me at and I might use it in the next post! Be sure to include your name and blog or portfolio url.


One response
  1. Anita Avatar

    Great article. Thanks for the very useful tips!

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