Ask For a Little More

via kentuckystatepolice.org

via kentuckystatepolice.org

As you jump into reporting full-time, you’ll want to understand story lengths and what you’ll need for each story, when you pitch them.

I struggled with this at first because I always asked for less than what I needed. I’m not sure why I did that, but I did. Sometimes I would overcompensate and not have enough information to fill the inch count that I had asked for.

This skill comes with practice. Depending on how much space you need for background and quotes, picking a proper story length is crucial. No editor wants to be hung out to dry in either direction. Too much space to fill will drive them crazy and too much copy will cause havoc, as well.

No matter what, you have to stick to your inch counts. I’ve found a trick to help me along the way.

Always ask for more space than what you need. You can thank me later, but I’ll explain it quickly.

With more space, you aren’t tied down. You can get creative and add things, such as more background and quotes that you think should really be in the story. I happen to like when stories have more quotes than background, but that’s just me.

With more space, you don’t have to worry as much. When you have a small inch count and you run out of room, the stress will get you. It’s happened to me, just like it’s happened to every reporter ever. It’s not a great feeling and can throw off your writing, which is the last thing you want to happen.

I always ask for one to two inches more than what I need. It’s not a ton of space, but it’s a couple of paragraphs that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to have in the story. Sometimes it’s useless information, but other times it’s things that I really need to get in, or at least I think need to be in the story.

It’s a balancing act for story lengths. Obviously, the bigger stories take up more space, but sometimes others, such as budget stories, really need to have the high inch counts. It’s not by choice because some stories just need more explanation.

How much will you ask for?

Jonathan

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