Perfect Pitch

NASW took place as baseball's best were on the verge of a World Series — and players and writers alike worked to perfect their pitches.

At the "Perfecting the Art of the Pitch: Practice and Pointers for PIOs" session at the October 20th meeting in Spokane, Wash., public information officers heard advice from a panel of pitching's aces: Peggy Girshman of Congressional Quarterly, Ron Winslow of The Wall Street Journal, Michael Lemonick, freelance writer formerly of Time Magazine and moderator Lee Siegel, a public information officer at the University of Utah and former pitch-fielder at the Salt Lake Tribune.

The session opened with the panelists' general advice:

  • DO pitch via email, with a catchy subject line.
  • DON'T pitch over the phone.
  • DO give embargoed scoops.
  • DON'T pitch a story a competitor already ran.
  • Stories with a news peg are hits; stories about faraway potential impacts aren't.
  • Suggest multimedia.
  • Have a human source.

PIOs' 60-second pitches closed the session, their topics running the gamut from Michigan moose to Japanese subway stations. Panelists critiqued the story ideas and offered strategic advice, encouraging PIOs to ferret through lesser-known journals for new research, to find an interesting new angle if a story has already run, and to look for different outlets for publication, like discipline-specific journals.

What, then, is the perfect pitch? According to the pros, it isn't a pitch at all: it's a well-written and well-timed news release. Or it's about dinosaurs.

Alison Drain is a freelance writer and a graduate student at the University of Arizona who studies physical oceanography and climate modeling.

Oct. 23, 2007

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