By Lynn Walsh, RTDNA Blogger
Most stories don't just happen. They usually start with a viewer email, phone call or a question.
Sometimes those "tips" are easy to turn into the story of the day, but sometimes they are not. And in most newsrooms, you have a variety of reasons why a story you may want to do, doesn't go to air that day.
Whether it's a managers decision, lack of resources or other bigger breaking news, sometimes your story just doesn't happen. We've all been in another situation, too, probably more times than not: when the story you pitch gets squashed and you are off on another one.
It's never fun and can sometimes be disheartening. And while there are times it may be out of your hands, here are a few things to keep in mind while making your story pitch.
1. Vet it well. Before you even bring it up at the news meeting, make sure you know who you would talk to, what the elements are and, most importantly, get the facts straight. Most of the time that means making the phone calls and asking a lot of the questions ahead of time, probably off camera. It takes time but the more prepared you are when pitching it in front of the news team the better off you will be.
2. Be thinking "real people." You should always be thinking about your audience when working on stories, but be sure to mention how and why this affects the people in your community when you pitch it. The more you spell it out for your news manager, the easier it will be for him to see why the story should be done.
3. It's all about change. What will doing the story accomplish? Is it going to help a family, a community? Will it raise awareness about the need for a law or how a current law or regulation is working or how it may need to be changed? Make sure to think about this and include it with your pitch.
4. Data helps. It shouldn't drive your story but having data that backs up the points you are trying to make helps. Data is something that can bring validity to a story and can make it harder to ignore.
5. Has it been done before? This is so important and is the number reason a lot of stories I have pitched have been turned down. So, save yourself the headache and see if it's been done before. Do a simple Google search, look on Lexis or check out journalism blogs to see if your story or issued has been covered.
If you do all of that and your news manager just isn't sold...
1. Keep digging. Just because they don't like it one day doesn't mean they will always not like it. If you feel that it is a great story, look at it a little more, dig a little deeper. As you do this you may realize it is a bigger story than you thought.
2. Pass is along. So, maybe you can't do the story but can someone else in your newsroom do it? As someone who works on special projects, I pass along stories to colleagues that are more short term but still great. At the end of day, whether I worked on it or not, the story that I thought was worth telling gets told and that's what matters.
3. Transform the format. Maybe it's not a full 1:30 package. Could it just be worth a VO-SOT or VO? Maybe it's a web- only sorry that can have interactive elements. Or maybe it's just worth a quick mention on Facebook or Twitter.
4. Look at the bigger picture. Sometimes the problem with stories is that they can be too focused on an individual. This is another main reason some of my stories don't make it to air. Take a step back and see if it's a bigger issue. Are there more people being affected? Does it involve more communities? Sometimes this is where public information requests and data can come into play.
5. Any tie-ins? Does the story tie into any holidays, anniversaries or other big news events that are going on? If so, maybe re-pitch the story then. Explain the connection to news managers. It could make all the difference.
Have a favorite story pitch or good story about one? Let me know!
Lynn Walsh is the Investigative Producer at WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Florida. Connect with her on Twitter, @LWalsh or send her an email: [email protected]
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