How to Find & Pitch Stories That Are
Guaranteed to Lead Every Newscast

How to Find & Pitch Stories That Are Guaranteed to Lead Every Newscast

Written by News Gal
🕒 May 31, 2018

I had a co-worker who was always upset with the stories she was assigned to cover.

She would complain every day that she wasn’t the reporter covering hard news. She wanted to be the lead reporter for the station. The problem was that she never pitched hard news stories.

Every day she would come in and pitch soft, fluff pieces or something she read in the newspaper. Since she never pitched big stories, she never covered big stories.

If you want to cover the big stories, there are a few things you need to do.

1. Pitch what you want to cover.

If you want to cover an investigative piece, or last nights homicide, pitch it. Don’t expect to pitch a fluff piece and get to do the lead story. If you keep pitching press release stories, you’ll never be the A-block reporter.

2. Know where to find your stories.

You need to be prepared. Look at daily story ideas as homework. Yes, homework sucks, but it helps when you’re prepared.

Social media can be a treasure chest of story ideas. I think I pitch at least one, usually two, stories a day that I’ve found on Facebook or Twitter.

‘Like’ all of the local police, fire, and emergency management pages on Facebook. Make sure you find scanner pages, local neighborhood pages, and school pages, too. If you can find some Neighborhood Watch pages, those are also great.

Take a few minutes to scroll through different Facebook pages each night. If you see something that interests you, send a message to the poster. They can give you more information, and will hopefully agree to do interviews or will tell you who will do an interview.

3. Sell your story.

You might think your story about a ring of car thefts is juicy, but if you don’t sell it during the pitch, then you’ll be stuck covering something else.

Make sure you find out if there are pictures or surveillance video. I know my station LOVES when there is video from either a nosy neighbor or a security system. The moment I say “surveillance video” is the moment I know that I’ll be covering the story.

Is the person you’re going to interview interesting? If so, make sure you mention that you’ll have great sound. Also, get in touch with police to find out if they have had any tips on the case yet. If you can tell your producers and managers that police are getting 15 tips a week, they’ll like that nugget of information, too.

If the story will require you to knock on doors, and get reaction from community members, let the managers know where you’ll find those interviews.

4. Make calls early.

I always know that if I tell management that I have interviews set up, they’ll be way more likely to let me do the story.

Get in touch with the person you want to interview as soon as you get to work. Even better, get in touch with them the night before when you’re looking for stories.

Having interviews set up means your story is a sure thing. There’s nothing better than a sure thing when you’re trying to fill 6+ hours of news a day.

5. Beat the competition.

I’m not just talking about the reporters at other stations with this one. I’m talking about the competition in your own newsroom, too.

If you want to cover the big story of the day, it’s likely an obvious story, like a homicide. Someone else in your newsroom probably wants that story too, so you need to beat them to it.

If you have a contact with homicide, text them as soon as you get up. Start searching social media immediately for any clues on who the victim was, and try to find the family. Once you have information, email it into the newsroom. Let people know you’re already working on this, and that you have made some progress.

If you’re already working on the story your co-worker who wants to do it, but hasn’t done any of the legwork, will lose out to you.

Remember, you control your destiny for the day. If you want to cover the big stories, you need to own the big stories from the beginning.

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1 Comment

  1. Many of the ideas in the article are good.

    As a print media editor I’d add things like check the superior court dockets regularly, and if you can swing it sit in on magistrate court (or wherever probable cause hearings are held in your area), develop good relations with several rank-and-file police officers and the PIO and periodically ask them if anything interesting has been going on in the department. Likewise get on first-name basis with assistant DAs and at least a couple of judges. Check the campaign contributions of candidates and elected officials from time-to-time.

    There’s a good argument to be made for deliberately pitching fluff articles about the pet projects of officials you want access to for more serious articles at a later date, too, and this definitely applies to both print and television.

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