DIY Toolkit: How to Pitch a Story
FROM IDEA TO PITCH: You’ve got an idea for a great story… or at least you think it’s a great story. Now you need to convince your editor/teacher why this story needs to get made, and why you’re the right reporter for the job. So what goes into a good pitch? How much research do you need to do before you make your pitch? We’ve put together some of tips of the trade on putting together the best pitch for your story idea.
ACTIVITY: Learn to Pitch a Story for your School Newspaper
In this activity, you’ll role play an editorial meeting at your school newspaper. The teacher plays the assignment editor, who along with the class, will judge the student group’s pitches. The class will then evaluate, which one they feel is strongest to be the next cover story.
This is a group activity, ideal for at least 6 students.
TIME: 40 to 60 minutes (30 minutes baseline + 3 minutes per group for share backs and discussion)
BACKGROUND: The Pitfalls of Pitching
Coming up with a good story (and presenting it well) is harder than it seems! Even experienced journalists can fall into some common mistakes when pitching their ideas. Check out these common pitfalls and try to avoid them!
- Example: “I heard this new band called U2”
- Why Not? This may be news to you but your discovery has already been discovered.
- Instead: Is there anything new that you could bring to this story? How about finding a local story with a fresh focus.
The Remote Pitch
- Example: “I think we should really be covering the conflict in the middle east.”
- Why Not? What could you bring to this story from halfway around the world?
- Instead: Try finding a local angle on global politics by covering a protest or people who have moved from
- Example: “I wanna do an in depth profile of Beyonce.”
- Why Not? You probably don’t have access.
- Instead: Maybe there’s some impact her music and celebrity power has had on your community?
- Example:“I want report on poverty in America”
- Why Not? This is a better topic for a book than a radio story
- Instead: Try to break off a piece of this issue that could be addressed in 4.5 minutes. How are people accessing a new distribution system for welfare benefits.
- Example: “I wanna do a story about why all boys love sports”
- Why Not? That’s based on assumption and not necessarily fact. Also is there something new or surprising that we could learn from the story?
- Instead: Look for evidence rather than anecdotes. Maybe the story is about how and why that stereotype persists and whether or not its changing.
The Fake Trend
- Example: I’ve been playing a new video game and I think everyone should.
- Why Not? Personal interests can be a good start for a story but they have to connect to actual broader societal trends.
- Instead: Research to verify if the trend is real or reframe the story as a first-person commentary.
PROFESSIONAL Q&A – The Art of Pitching with Robert Krulwich
Youth Radio reporter Rafael Johns speaks with veteran NPR science reporter and co-host of Radiolab, Robert Krulwich. Robert’s approach to pitching involves a heated conversation with himself. “The person I really pitch a story to is me– but the part of me that knows nothing from the part of me that knows everything,” he says. Hear the rest of the conversation above.
ABOUT THE INNOVATION LAB
This Lesson Plan is part of a larger effort by Youth Radio’s Innovation Lab for young people, working in partnership with veteran educators, to develop materials that will enable teachers and learners everywhere to engage youth in media and tech creation. Launched in 2013, the Innovation Lab leverages Youth Radio’s top-flight journalism and our track record as one of the first programs worldwide that teaches teens to design dynamic new storytelling tools and platforms by integrating journalism and programming. For more information check out the Youth Radio’s Innovation Lab
See more teaching toolkits here.