Your job is to do enterprise journalism. This is reporting that is not solely generated by news or a press release. It is instigated from the news room by a reporter who has done her homework. She knows her sources and has developed them. She knows what kinds of stories her readers like and what good stories are coming up.
Editors do not care if you think the story is interesting. Don’t write something like, “I think this story will be interesting to readers.” That tells your editor nothing, especially if the reporter is a novice. What matters is if the story has TIP CUP values. A good reporter has paid close attention to the news values or TIP CUP as those values are sometimes called. TIP CUP refers to the acronym T-timeliness, I-impact, P-proximity, C-conflict, U-unusual or different, and P-prominence. See the first chapter of your text and the following web site.
Students will act as writers who will pitch, or propose, their story idea to the professor who will act as your assignment editor and/or news director. I will provide comments, kind critique, and suggestions on your story idea. It is your job as the writer to convince me that your story idea is a good one.
Read the website below for assistance. You do not have to do any of the assignments outlined in the website. Just use it to help you figure out how to proceed with a pitch.
Pay particular attention to the “Making the Pitch” section. Ambiguous pitches are not inspiring and do not produce good news.
This is not a time to be wishy washy. Writers need to be convinced their idea is good. Then they need to explain why. They need to answer any questions without reflecting a negative attitude. They need to meet criticism in a professional and positive manner.
Be brief, concise, clear, persuasive, compelling, creative, and well informed about your idea. Do your homework. Is this a new story idea? Has a similar story been crafted and published lately? Does it have at least some level of all six news or TIP CUP values? Be prepared to defend your idea in a collegial manner. If you are not good at taking criticism, you will not last long in news writing. This is a good time to have thick skin. Yes, I realize many of you do not want to be a journalist. But, you need to learn and understand how difficult and important a reporter’s job is to democracy.
In newsrooms, while reporters are researching, calling sources, and writing, etc., they are on the clock. News directors or editors want to know reporters are able to do stories in a timely manner. Do not confuse this timeliness with the TIP CUP timeliness. You will need to be able to work swiftly and efficiently. In your pitch/proposal, explain who you plan to interview and why? Be as specific as possible with this. Provide a “Contact List” at the end of your proposal. As soon as your idea is approved, start accessing sources as soon as possible. When are they available for an interview?
Be aware that there is an interviewee list with potential interviewees and a contact list. That may appear to be redundant. The contact list will help your editor look at the interviewees at a glance. The interviewee list explains the questions you plan on asking each interviewee and provides information as to where you are going with the story and how the interviewee fits into the story.
In your pitch/proposal, explain the news angle. Why should readers or viewers care? Why are you proposing the story now? Who do you plan on interviewing? Why? Who are your experts?
You need to interview a minimum of three individuals. At least one of those individuals needs to be an expert. By expert, I mean a professional who went to school for his or her career. Depending upon your story and what you are doing, your story may call for more than one expert or professional. You will be expected to use good news judgement in determining who you should interview. If you are unsure, ask me in an email. Do not wait until your story is ready to submit to Blackboard. It will be too late to make the proper corrections.
I am not interested in stories with individuals ranting on and on about something. Your story should be based on facts not opinions. Your hard-hitting feature needs to have experts with researched knowledge and experience on the topic. Tell who are they in the pitch. Will you have access to them in a timely manner? Your final feature story is due mid-November, which will come up soon. This is longer than most journalist have to produce a feature story. Most importantly, you will need to start contacting the interviewees as soon as your story is approved. It may take as many as ten attempts to reach an expert.
Do not cover a breaking news story. I may reject an excellent story idea because I know how difficult it may be to find individuals willing to comment on a particular topic. Students in the sports writing class often present great story ideas; however, I know how protective the athletic department is and how few interviews are granted. This will be taken into consideration for all story approvals.
Remember there are more than two sides to most stories. Your job is to present as many facets of the story as possible in the given time frame.
You may be inspired by stories in the newspaper, on the television, on the internet, or in other publications. Do not fully copy another idea. That is plagiarism. You are allowed to spring forth an idea from another writer. You may likely have to answer how your idea is different from what has already been done. Tell your editor, me, how you plan on covering the story. What will the primary focus be? Who will be interested in reading your piece?
Do not do a story on something with which you are involved. This poses a conflict of interest. If you are in a fraternity that is sponsoring or involved in an event, it does not matter that you may not be the coordinator or volunteer for that particular function. What matters is how the public and your readers may see the connection. If the story is not critical, someone may think, “Of course he wrote that. He’s a member of the fraternity.” Journalists and news outlets have to protect their integrity
Not using Microsoft Word upon the initial submission will result in an automatic 30-point penalty. Keep in mind that many things that were only a one- or two-point deduction will now be a minimum 5-point deduction. Some things like mistakes on format, heading, and paragraphs will now be a 10-point deduction.
Please do not think that because this is a pitch that you are allowed to throw this together. Be as ever diligent about your writing as ever. This assignment is tricky. On the one hand, it may be the easiest assignment you have in this class. On the other hand, it may be the hardest assignment because you have to plan and organize ahead of actually doing the interviewing, reporting, writing, and editing. Do not slop something together. Your pitch grade and the quality of your feature may suffer later on.
Remember to follow the proper format. I have posted sample pitches, but they may have required a different format. Follow the format you have used for previous assignments this fall. Use the AP Rules sheet and the Editing Check List on Blackboard.
This assignment is worth 100 points. Let me know if you have any questions. You may write a paragraph of your idea to me via e-mail to make sure you are on the right track.
Those students in the sports writing class must write a sports story.
I hope you have fun with this assignment.