How to pitch a story.

In an era of ‘elevator pitches’ and shaky job security, it is as important as ever to network and have a back-up source of income. If not for anything, at least to have a semblance of financial independence. Freelancing is as big an industry as it is vague and undefined. There are no hard and fast rules here. The competition is heavy as well. All that matters is what you, as a contributor, can bring to the table. 

Writing story pitches is probably the most important part of journalism. Not only does it help the commissioning editor (the one who approves of your idea as being worthy of doing a story) to see what you can bring to their product, but also fine tune the idea you have in your mind about the topic. 

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when writing a story pitch: 

Do your research about the publication. You cannot send in a story pitch about labour rights to a publication that extensively reports on the environment. It would be the bare minimum to know the broad genre of the publication. 

Always begin with a (tentative) headline. That will help you narrow your story down while elaborating on it in the pitch. Of course, when drafting the pitch, the headline can be the last thing you write. But, when you send that email, put the headline first. 

Ideally divide the pitch into three sections

The headline, the description and the sources you will speak to, to substantiate the story. 

The description will be an explanation of what the story will talk about. The hows, whats and the whys basically. This is the point where you explain what you will be bringing new to the existing narrative (if any) on the topic. 

The description portion is also the part where you would need to deploy your convincing skills to the max. Here’s a trick I was taught by one of my professors that can help you to a great extent in getting your pitch approved: After every important sentence in this part, ask yourself this question —  ‘So what?’. If you can convincingly answer this, it means you have a decent pitch.  

The last part is about your sources. You can possibly give a broad idea of the range of voices you will be getting for your story. For example you can say — I aim to speak to the people who have been affected by this. I will also speak to the local legislator, the bureaucrat who was incharge of this aspect, a few activists and ground level workers who have repeatedly helped these affected people out and some academics to get a fuller picture of the issue. 

Always make your pitch elaborate. It helps in conveying your passion and sincerity in working on the story and also helps the commissioning editor to give a real thought about the story. 

Happy pitching!


Written by Megha Kaveri, who is a journalist, working for The News Minute. Based out of Chennai, she has been working as a reporter for over two years. When not working she thrives on music, memes, books and food.