Perfect pitch

Too many good stories never make it on TV because they fail the “pitch test.” With resources tight and air time limited, news managers aren’t going to green light every story idea. If you want the opportunity to tell a story, you have to know how to sell it.

Last weekend, I moderated a session on story pitching for the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, along with KPIX-TV news director Dan Rosenheim and Peggy Girshman of Congressional Quarterly (formerly of NPR). Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make sure you actually have a story in mind, and not just a vague idea.
  • If a newspaper article prompted your story idea, make sure you can suggest how to advance the story.
  • It’s okay to pitch a story you read in “a” newspaper, but not “the” (local) newspaper; in other words, don’t suggest a story everyone in your area might already have read.
  • If your pitch was inspired by an academic study or government report, make sure you’ve seen the original source.

Both Peggy and Dan say a good pitch needs to be focused, just like a good story. “Don’t focus on the medium, focus on the tale,” Peggy advised the group. Check these additional tips for story selling, and let us know if you have others to add.