Summer of stories: If it looks a bit odd, there’s probably a great story there
If it looks like a story and smells like a story, chances are it’s a great tale — and if ever there was proof of that, it’s today’s Summer of Stories Q&A from Luke Powell, a reporter on the Eastern Daily Press, who tells us about the Japanese restaurant owner who insisted he wasn’t running a Japanese restaurant at all…
What was this story about?
A man who denied turning his Norwich house into a Japanese restaurant, despite putting up signs and a Facebook page advertising it as one
How did you find out about this story?
I drove past it on my way to football training, thought it looked odd, and decided to check it out the next day
Can you tell us about what work went on prior to publication?
I started by knocking on the doors of his neighbours, who told me how unhappy they were with the property. They claimed he was running an illegal restaurant inside. They also told me he was planning to turn the house into a B&B and his application was going before the city council the next day. In that application there was no mention about the restaurant complaints — hence why it was never picked up by our reporters.
I contacted Norwich City Council which confirmed they had investigated the premises. I also contacted the owner of the house, who denied running it as a restaurant.
What was the reaction after publication?
The story went national very quickly, being discussed on radio and on TV. Locally it was picked up by the BBC and ITV. It also trended on Reddit. For us, it was our best read story of the day by far, and became one of the best read stories of the month, along with the follow-up the next day.
Why will you remember this story?
Because it shows the importance of keeping your eyes open for stories. If something looks unusual or interesting, the chances are it probably is.
Did this story tell you anything about local journalism? If so, what?
That local journalism is often behind some of the most bizarre headlines you’ll read in the nationals
Is there any advice you could give a would-be journalist based on this story?
Get out of the office and have a drive around your patch. If you spot something that looks interesting or unusual, chances are other people think the same, and there could be a brilliant story behind it.