Pitching a story is a particularly important skill in broadcast, because air time is so precious. Pitches need to prod, pique and provoke. You need to make it impossible for an editor or producer to say no. And if you're a freelancer , pitching is an essential skill.

Getting good at pitching has an unexpected, high-impact side effect: It helps you find a story focus early in the writing process. With a strong focus, reporting and writing become easier, faster and more effective.

Whether you’re trying to sell a story idea or just looking for ways to sharpen your focus, there are some guidelines to follow.

  • The Idea: Every pitch should express the basic premise of the story. Describe the conflict or tension you’ll explore or the newsworthiness of the piece. Think of this as a specific statement about the story you wish to tell.
  • A Reporting Plan: Show you've done some homework on the reporting needed to tell the story. Describe interview possibilities (who the main characters are likely to be) and, for radio, sound possibilities (what the scenes are and where you plan to record).
  • A Time Peg: Give a reason to care and a sense of timeliness. You have to be able to answer the questions: So what? Why do this story now? Why should the audience care?

Taken from Writing for the Ear, a self-directed course by Dan Grech at Poynter NewsU.

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