When you are attempting to challenge the dominant discourse, persuading media outlets to commission your stories can be more difficult. A good pitch could help. Journalists use pitches to persuade editors that their suggested topics are worth covering.
Journalists use pitches to persuade editors that their suggested topics are worth covering. There is no universal rule on how a pitch should look. But the most important thing is to clearly explain what is important about the topic and why the audience should be interested in it, too.
At the same time it is important to realize that you should make your pitch only once you have researched the topic and understood the background. The set of questions below can help you to formulate pitch and identify any areas that you may need to develop further. These are intended as broad guidelines, not strict prescriptions. Below you will also find some further tips on how to prepare the case for your editor.
- Why is the topic important? Why should the audience want to go through it?
- What makes it newsworthy? Why do we want to report on the issue now?
- What information needs to be included? What angle would you like to use to tell the story?
- What kind of information and data will you need to back up the story? Who are you going to speak with? What institutions would you like to contact?
- Do you plan to use any special elements, such as infographics?
And here are some tips to help you persuade editors that responsible reporting on migration or development is a good idea:
- Pitch stories, not topics. Show how you can communicate the issue in a compelling way with human stories.
- If you are planning a trip or visiting an organization, contact an editor beforehand, so that you can offer to pitch stories from the location. That way, you can adapt your approach or do additional reporting to meet the editor’s requirements.
- Include your pitch in the body of your email, not as an attachment. Make sure it gets read as fast as possible, with no unnecessary obstacles.
- Where possible, pitch the story idea face to face rather than writing it and filing it unsolicited. Many editors like to ‘front-edit’, helping to shape the story and put it together.
- If your pitch is time-sensitive, make that clear. And be sure to allow plenty of time for the editor to respond before any deadline.
- If you don’t receive a response for a couple of days, it is sometimes OK to send a follow-up email. Sometimes people are simply busy and a lack of response does not mean rejection.
- Try to avoid pitching the same story to multiple outlets at the same time. But if you do have to do this, make sure you let all the editors know that you’re doing it.
- If you haven’t worked with an editor before, make sure to include some background about yourself at the start of your pitch.
- Make sure any important sources have already agreed to work with you before you make your pitch.
- Emphasize the responsibility we have as journalists to uncover the truth and to tell authentic stories.
- Talk about the importance of promoting a more positive discourse that values freedom and human life rather than national security and economic advantage.
- Talk about the responsibility we have as a society to uphold human rights and provide refuge to people who are fleeing persecution.
- Point out how in-depth personal testimonies and interesting new angles make for compelling stories that audiences may not have encountered before.
- Share examples of good reporting on the issues, to show what impact it can have.