International Reporting

Class Agenda – Feb. 15, 2017

Update on Baruch journalism Facebook group

How to pitch a story

The purpose of a pitch is to sell your editor on your story. Convince them why it matters, why it’s a good fit for their publication, that you can get it, and that you’re the right person to do it.

A pitch should essentially look like the top of a story. By that I mean you should have a clear lede and nut graph. (Quick review: what is a lede and a nut graph?)

  • Types of ledes: anecdotal, straightforward summary, funnel
  • A nut graph puts the story in context and tells readers why the story matters
  • “So what?” — it tells readers why they should care about the story
  • It provides a transition from the lede to the rest of the story
  • It often tells readers why the story is timely
  • It contains the story’s angle

Moving on…

Your pitch should also demonstrate that you’ve already done at least some preliminary reporting: For instance, that you’ve already locked down at least one important source, or gotten some crucial access approved.

From there you can get into the broader vision for your story, and this will differ depending on the medium you’re working in. Who do you plan to interview/have you already interviewed? What kind of sounds or visuals can we expect? Also, if you’re pitching a radio editor, you’re going to want to write for the ear to convince them you know how to write a script.

It’s good to name drop a connection if you have one (“Hi Dustin, I’m a colleague of [person who’s freelanced for them before]” and to include a link to your portfolio website so they can easily see some of your previous work. (You should all build one if you don’t have one already!)

Here is an example of a pitch that was accepted:

subject: the refugee crisis that’s bigger than Greece—but far more humane

Hi Jennifer,

It’s been awhile! I hope you’re doing well. I recently returned from a reporting trip to Uganda with a story that I think is really important, and would be great for The World.

When most people think of the world’s biggest refugee crisis, they think of the people risking everything to reach Italy and Greece by sea—a crisis that is staggering in size. In all of 2016, there were over 360,000 boat arrivals in Europe.

They may be surprised to learn, however, that 445,000 refugees have crossed into northern Uganda just since July 2016 as they flee the brutal conflict in South Sudan.

“It has been unrelenting,” said Nasir Fernandes, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator overseeing the Uganda crisis. “It has been a massive scale emergency.”

Six months ago, the world’s second-largest refugee hosting site, Bidibidi settlement, was sparsely populated scrubland. After topping a quarter of a million people in December, it was closed to new arrivals. A second camp is already well on its way to being filled and UNHCR is preparing a third to accommodate the 2,000 people who are crossing the border every day, most of them on foot.

There has been very little coverage of this situation, which is hard to believe having just witnessed the scale of it. I spent a week reporting there at the end of January, and while the situation is desperate, there’s also cause for optimism. This is because of Uganda’s surprisingly humane refugee policy that relief workers are touting as a model for the rest of the world.

Refugees are given freedom of movement, the right to work, and plots of land to live on and to farm. And in this age of fear and suspicion toward migrants, Ugandans in the surrounding communities have been refreshingly welcoming toward the refugees. Many are former refugees themselves, and the ballooning population has created business opportunities.

This feature will be sound-rich. I visited the border and recorded refugees crossing into Uganda on a rickety wooden bridge as rebel soldiers watched from the other side. I went to Palorinya settlement area and recorded the sound of more than 3,000 people being herded onto buses and trucks and driven to a patch of desert where they will build their new homes. I also have tape of women singing and drumming at a women’s center, and of dozens of children playing at a playground—a full 68 percent of the refugees in this crisis are under the age of 18. I interviewed a number of recently-arrived refugees whose stories range from horrifying to hopeful.

I have images to accompany the story online; I’m attaching a handful to give you a sense of the visuals. Please let me know if you have any questions!


Assignment: Pitches due Wednesday 2/22 for story #1

If you choose to do a print story, it should be 800 words and there should be at least one photo. You don’t have to check out a DSLR camera for this; your phone is perfectly fine. You just need some sort of visual to run with it.

You may also choose to do a video. It should be a two- to three-minute video; whether narrated or non-narrated is up to you. You may also opt for a text “narration.” If you prefer to do something a little more broadcast (with a standup, for instance) and a little less web video, that’s fine. If you do a video, when you file the story, it will need to be accompanied by a brief (100 words or so) blog post that introduces the story.

If you choose to do a photography project, there should be 12-20 photos. This can be in slideshow form with strong, informative captions, or you can lay them out in a blog post where the photos are interspersed with text as you scroll down.

If you choose to do a radio story, it should be a three-to four-minute narrated package with at least two separate interviews and one natural sound (plus ambi). Give yourself a sign-off: “For Baruch College, this is ____ _____ in ______.” Your scripted host intro can serve as your intro paragraph for the blog, and you should also include at least one photo.

For those of you who have NOT taken my multimedia class before, one final thing: News Photography 101