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Man Bites Dog: The Stories Journalists Look For: Richard Fisher @ outREACH 2018

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What makes a good story in the eyes of a journalist? In this talk, BBC journalist Richard Fisher explores what makes a strong story that demands publication and social sharing – and how best to pitch editors with your stories to get their attention.

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Man Bites Dog: The Stories Journalists Look For: Richard Fisher @ outREACH 2018

  1. 1. Meet Alfred Harmsworth (aka Viscount Northcliffe)
  2. 2. If a dog bites a man, that’s not news. If a man bites a dog, that’s news.
  3. 3. January 2018
  4. 4. May 2018 January 2018 March 2018 April 2018
  5. 5. What does a features journalist look for in a story? News waves and timeliness Shareability Narrative elements
  6. 6. News waves and timeliness
  7. 7. Shareability
  8. 8. Buzzfeed sharing principles • Identity • ‘This expresses my identity better than I can.’ • Emotional Gift • ‘This made me feel X; I’d like you to feel X.’ • Social Information • ‘Here is something that supports a view I already have.’ Source: Ze Frank (BuzzFeed’s EVP of Video)
  9. 9. Narrative elements
  10. 10. Topic vs Story Future of food The threat of artificial intelligence Longevity The astonishing growth of meat- free burgers Could artificial intelligence develop religion? The woman who plans to live to 1,000 years old
  11. 11. Story archetypes For example: • Quest • Tragedy • Rags-to-riches • Battling the monster
  12. 12. Dos and don’ts of story pitching (a journalist’s perspective)
  13. 13. Some ‘Don’ts’ • Put all your information in an attachment. Only psychopaths do that. • Feign familiarity, it feels a bit weird (‘how’s the family?’) • Use badly formatted mass-email (Dear ‘Mr Richard’, ‘Hello INSERT EMAIL’) • Pretend to be a freelance journalist (eg using the words ‘Article Pitch:’ in email subject)
  14. 14. Do’s • Find out what we do – is it features or news? Familiarise yourself with our content and audience • Think about your story context – help us make the connections. Very few things happen in a vacuum. • Try to get to know the journalist/editors you are contacting. • Write intriguing or snappy email subjects & first pars. Keep short. • Seek out the commissioning editors (it’s often not the most senior editor) • Be clear if there’s also multimedia content and where to easily access it in a link • Follow-up, especially with 1-to-1 requests (though not all editors are grateful for phone calls)

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