Wick Communications

Pitching your stories

In Writing on 9 Dec 2011 at 9:42 am

If you are a staff reporter, you probably don’t think of yourself as “selling” your work. You may not consider your story budget conversations with editors as making pitches for space in the newspaper.

However, I submit to you that that is exactly what you are doing when you tell an editor what you are working on.  You are a pitcher.

So, you have two choices. You can mumble something about covering a city council meeting, or you can speak up and say you have an exclusive about a city program that has lost thousands of taxpayer dollars even though it was initially designed to save money.

Now put yourself in the editor’s chair. Would you plan on putting a generic story about the city council on the front page or would you rather have something specific, a well-considered story that has real people, conflict, surprise and art? …

Most of you know that I am a big believer in the story budget and regular editorial meetings to plan the coming week. That process includes getting writers to contribute clear “budget lines” that convey the lead of the story, how long it should be, when it will come in and what art is envisioned. If you want to see how we do it at the Review, just ask and I’ll send you a copy of our weekly budget.

I was thinking about all this again this week after running across sales consultant Susan Young’s blog post concerning sales pitches. I think a lot of what she says – demonstrate that you understand what is relevant to readers, be a reader yourself, avoid jargon – translates to what we do.

Here’s a compelling second reason to make compelling story pitches: It focuses the mind. If you say simply that you plan to cover the school board meeting, dollars to donuts you will come back with a boring lead that reads something like:

The city school board voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a $1.6 million budget for the coming calendar year.

Your mother won’t even read that story. Before the meeting, read the agenda, talk to board members, visit with staff and figure out what is in that budget that will truly interest readers, and then make that pitch to editors.




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