I know what I used to like and not like from my very long career in TV news when it came to story pitches, but I know my advice isn’t universal, so I asked via my Facebook page some of my newsie friends who are still in the biz to weigh in on what works for them. I heard from several reporters, producers, photographers and assignment editors in several markets.
“Do your research on whom you’re pitching to. Don’t pitch an investigative reporter a fluffy feature piece.”
“Make it timely. I’m more likely to respond to something if it coincides with breaking news or some current event, or the release of a new study (We love studies!) such as national car seat safety week OR following up on a recent child death in the news, a new study released on car seat safety.”
“Don’t make it a commercial for your product. I can’t do a story about how cool your product is.”
“Catchy slug! A clever headline gets ‘em every time.”
“Get my name and call letters correct. Don’t bug me by phone asking I received the email. It’s OK to call the day before or the morning of the event. Get to the point. Know it is not cool to call during the bomb runs, the 30 minutes before and anytime during a newscast. There. Whew.”
“Two words. Send food.”
“I like the what, where, when to be clear, so I don’t have to search for the date to file it under. Also, do not make me open an attachment to get the info, or I will hate you forever. And yes, send food.”
“I agree. If I am trying to get to an event, I don’t have to search through lengthy, rambling text to find the info I need.”
“From a TV/digital standpoint, you need to list elements that will make it easier to write/shoot/edit story. Right down to visuals, interviews/SOTs and even a suggested script.”
“Resending, calling incessantly is just annoying. I’m like ‘Did you get a bounce back?’ Then yes, I got your 3 emails.”
“Tell me why this is going to be interesting or important to my viewers. And, how is it going to be visual? I agree with the comment about a good slug. ‘A local tech company develops an app that calculates you caloric intake’ sounds very different than ‘A local tech company creates an app to help you lose weight.’”
“As soon as I see something like, ‘I thought your readers might like this,’ I’m done. At least know whom you’re sending the release to and what they actually do.”
“KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule on releases to the Assignment Desk. Tell me the five W’s and keep it short. I would blow it out if it was verbose as I simply didn’t have time to mess with reading your three pages long email.”
“Don’t tell me where you want me to do the interviews. We’ll pick out own background, thank you very much!”
That last one was less about a story pitch and more of just a general pet peeve of any crew in the field. I agree with it wholeheartedly. The less pushy you are, the more you will be beloved by the media and that will be one of your greatest accomplishments because they can be a picky bunch.