The purpose of the pitch is to detail the informative story you would like to tell. It’s useful in helping you refine your idea into something specific and engaging, and it’s key for us in helping you steer clear of weak or overused ideas.
Before pitching a story, you must interview at least one person you do not know and supply that person’s information on the pitch. These interviews are key to generating ideas because, let’s face it, we want you to report on stories that are new. Move beyond the knowledge you already have. Ask a professor or bartender or guy at the bus stop what’s interesting or what stories deserve to be told.
For your story overall, it is a conflict of interest for you to cover people or organizations you are associated with in any way. This means friends, family members and co-workers are off limits for interviews, photos, audio, etc. It also means you cannot cover activities you are involved in, including fraternities, sororities, club sports or student organizations. I have occasionally allowed use of sources known to the student for certain kinds of sensitive stories. See me if you’d like to discuss a specific situation. If you violate these conflict-of-interest guidelines without approval, you may fail your Individual Story assignment, which constitutes 30 percent of your final course grade.
If you are pitching a personality profile, your pitch must include why that person is compelling. Do not say you want to profile Jane Doe. Instead, tell us exactly why Jane would be interesting, such as she fled from an abusive relationship or served in the Army in Afghanistan. You may not profile anyone you know well, such as a roommate or relative.
Here’s how the pitch works: first, review the pitches that have already been submitted. You are not allowed to pitch anything too closely related to an idea someone else has pitched. After you check submitted ideas, fill out this form and pitch your idea in one sentence.
We get lots of story ideas on drinking, parking on campus, sorority house mothers and UW athletics. You’ll meet with extra skepticism if you’re hitting on these or other well-worn areas. Remember that a key element of this assignment is communication values. Before honing your pitch, ask yourself whether you’re proposing a story that is new or has a particular impact. You want to stay away from anything that has a been-there-done-that feel to it. We will know if it has been done before and will tell you to go back to the drawing board on those ideas.
For instance, lots of people grumble about parking shortages on campus. It’s tough to find anything new in those complaints. But one semester, a J202-er wrote a story on how some students were abusing disabled parking by getting bogus doctor’s notes and using them to get Wisconsin disabled parking stickers when they had no disability at all. It was an innovative angle on an age-old story and earned high marks.
We ask that you stretch yourself and choose to write about something you’re not involved in. We will not allow personality profiles of Barry Alvarez, Greg Gard, Paul Chryst, Mike Leckrone, Tom Ryan (the piccolo guy on State Street) or Becky Blank.
Repeat: we do not allow duplicate story topics. First pitch wins, so submit yours soon.