Make Each Pitch Interesting

via sbrownehr.com

I learned quickly that boring and bland story pitches will not get you a byline.

I don’t know how other newsrooms work, but at the Chronicle, as I’ve said before, I can only pitch two stories each day. Unless one of them is breaking news, I have to make those stories sound good.

Even if you know the story isn’t front page/top of the fold quality, pitch it like it is. If you are fired up about it, make it catch your editor(s) interest. If you are a freelancer, your life revolves around the stories you write. That’s how you are making your living.

But before you pitch the story, you have to make sure you know the ins and outs of what the story is about. Expect to be asked a couple of quick and pointed questions. You’ll have to know the answers because editors don’t want to budget a story and have it unravel before deadline. Doing a bit of research on the topic, if it’s a new issue in a town, won’t hurt your cause either.

The Pitch

For me, I make my pitches brief. If it takes you a minute to explain what’s going on, maybe you need to talk to a few more people, or do a bit more research. I tell Mike what the most important aspect of the story will be.

Make sure you believe in your pitch. Be confident about it.

Be honest with the story. Tell it like it is and give your editor the chance to understand what you’re saying. They’ll either bite on it or not. You’ll need to make it clear why the story is important. Don’t say anything more than you have to. Flowery wording isn’t needed at this point.

Now, if it’s an update to a story, mention that first. Followups are great ways to keep people informed and “easy” ways to keep you having stories each day to pitch. Some followups are better updates than others, but an update is an update. It’s worth mentioning.

Be Realistic

Obviously, it’s awesome to be on the front page each day, but most of the time it won’t happen. I realized rather quickly it’s more about filling the paper with the 10″ to 14″ stories. Features and breaking news stories will fall in your lap, but the everyday copy is something editors really look for. Not every story can be  on the front page.

Of course, if it is a big story, you won’t have to tell anyone that. “Big” story or not, it’s not your call if a story makes the front page or not. It’s a sobering reminder to make sure your stories will get accepted and make it in the paper.

Don’t Give Up

Not every pitch will make it. It’s okay, though. That only means you have a bit more work to do. It’s not the best feeling in the world, but it should give you a challenge.

For me, if I have a story that’s been “thrown away,” I try to prove my editor wrong. The challenge isn’t easy, but it’s something to strive for. The more practice you have at pitching interesting stories, the easier it will be for you down the road. There is a method to the madness, I promise.

Obviously, this isn’t everything you need to do to make each pitch interesting, but I think it’s a good place to start.

Jonathan

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One Response to Make Each Pitch Interesting

  1. Pingback: How Fast do You Write? « Just Starting Out

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