Going into work comes with the nail-biting issue of pitching stories. Even though I have been working professionally for six years, the pressure to produce is still there.
I try to come in with three hard news stories each day. There are news cycles where my sources have nothing, and I walk in the door empty-handed. That is when it’s time to put on the big-kid reporter pants and get to work, because relying on your assignment editor shouldn’t be an option.
Here are a few tips that should help you pitch good stories.
You can sit and dream up the best story ever, but can you turn that story in a day? Go ahead and make calls. Set up tentative interviews. If you go into the meeting saying you have someone ready to talk, you are more likely to get the go-ahead. It also shows that you have already invested in the story and some of the leg work is done.
Every holiday season you can expect the typical stories of last-minute shoppers, charities donating gifts, etc. Read or heard these before? You have. At best, they are expected and sometimes filler for the paper or newscast.
This is the time when planning ahead helps. Sometimes those stories that don’t turn in a day make great long-term projects. If you gather the elements in advance or at least have the players in place, trust me, your story pitch will be taken. Producers and editors will be happy to have a reporter who is not knee deep in a fluff piece — especially when it’s a holiday and you have hard news in your back pocket.
THE NEWER THE BETTER
Nothing reeks more than a stale pitch. That means don’t go picking through the paper trying to find something they have already done. And if another station has a story airing one night, don’t pitch it the next day. You always want to be a leader, not a follower. Remember, if a viewer or reader has already seen it, why would they watch it again?
However, there are exceptions. For instance, if a crime victim refuses to talk to the paper or the competing station on Monday and gives you an exclusive on Tuesday, then go ahead and put the story out there.
If you think you have a great story and it is not taken one day, don’t be afraid to pitch it again. For instance, the mosquito population surged in my viewing area following Tropical Storm Andrea. I pitched the story and producers didn’t take it. However, three days later, I brought up the issue again and the pitch turned into a story.
If you don’t believe in your pitch, why should your editor or producer? Get in there and be firm. Show your passion and get excited. You are acting as a salesperson, and being shaky about your product (story pitch) is not going to win over the buyer.
Jacqueline A. Ingles is a multiplatform reporter for WFTS in Tampa, Fla. She writes, shoots and edits her work. She previously worked for KXAN, WCTV and MTV News. A native of Chicago, she received a master’s in broadcast journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University-Chicago.
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