Best-selling writer Steve Lopez urged 4,000 student journalists at a spring convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday to dig for stories that matter.
“I could drive to any street, park the car, get out and find a story,” said Lopez, a modest-looking, silver-haired man dressed in a suit jacket and jeans. “And so could you …. it’s about the human condition – the everyday struggle.”
Lopez was the keynote speaker at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association spring national high school convention, which began Thursday and runs until Sunday.
A reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Lopez spoke for 50 minutes on a wide range of topics, including the future of journalism; the power of the next generation to shape the news; the relationship between reader and subject; and his own journey into the story that became his non-fiction 2008 bestseller, “The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music.” The book was later turned into a movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., and Jamie Foxx.
Lopez encouraged listeners to become journalists and to spare no effort in finding the stories that matter.
“Open yourselves, youngsters!” Lopez said. “Open to the possibilities – get out of the car, ask the questions, take the notes, chase the story. Look past any preconceived notions and stereotypes you may have.”
Lopez discussed how his first column about a homeless musician, Nathaniel Ayers, made hundreds of thousands of readers feel a connection to his story’s subject. “All (of) you hold the power in your hands to make this impact.”
Writing stories that matter takes skill and technique, Lopez said. But it is purpose that really makes a story sing.
“How do you get voice? It’s not how you write; it’s why you write,” Lopez said. In writing about Ayers, Lopez said he rediscovered his own passion for writing.
“The greatest gift (Ayers) gave to me, was letting me know his story,” Lopez said. “He rekindled my passion, reminding me of my own passion, (that) I love to write stories (and) ask questions.”