Q. What’s the best story pitch you ever heard (and what made it great)?
A. I remember being hooked hard a few times by people who just sent me a low-key note about some story they knew I couldn’t resist. In other words, an email or phone call from someone saying, “We’re not ready to talk about it yet, but you should start looking into …” If I were in public relations, I think I’d definitely experiment a bit with the idea that reporters want to feel like they “discovered” the story or that they have an inside line on breaking news.
A pitch that’s informal and seems more like a personal note is something I’m much more apt to pay attention to. If I see my name on a press release list of 50 other reporters and editors around Alaska, I’m less interested. We have so few staffers that I prefer to avoid working on a story, or assigning someone a story, if five other reporters in Anchorage are working on it too.
Q. What’s guaranteed to make you ignore a story pitch?
A. As noted above, if I’m getting a pitch that’s cc’d to every reporter and editor in Alaska, I’ll generally let someone else do it unless the news absolutely has to be reported or is so important it would be a disservice to readers to rely on the wire version.
Story pitches or news releases that are overwritten – or written as news features complete with florid details – are also off-putting. I’m looking for a timeline of events, basic facts and other primary information. If the news release is written as if it’s already a feature story, it can be frustrating to hunt for the simple who/what/when/why I need.
Q. With newsrooms shrinking, some journalists are transitioning to other careers. Ever consider going into PR?
A. I’m having as much fun working in news as I ever have. The decline in print is hard to watch, but I love experimenting with what we can do online. Working in multi-media – such as shooting video for Iditarod, no matter how low-grade the clips may be – is gratifying. It would also be hard to walk away from news without building a body of work I could really be proud of. I don’t feel like I have enough homeruns yet to retire from reporting.
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