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Pitch in: Elements of story pitch meetings


Presenting a story idea to the editorial decision makers is an important stage of the production process. Not only does it give reporters the opportunity to show they have viable coverage ideas, but it also provides a forum for students to develop their presentation skills. In this lesson, students will analyze how to use the 5Ws and H to test their story idea and present in a concise manner. In an additional exercise, students may use Google apps to turn their story pitches into the framework for a coverage library and story index. This lesson provides practice for media literacy and basic reporting skills.


  • Students will develop and practice the understanding of the 5Ws and H in story development.
  • Students will prioritize the 5Ws and H to prove a viable story idea.
  • Students will practice how to present their story ideas in a concise manner.
  • Students will establish the foundation of coverage library and story index.

Common Core State Standards



Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.


150 minutes


Link: Twitter Character Counter

Presentation: Tips for Story Pitch Meetings

Handout: Pre-Reporting Preparation Homework

Rubric: Rubric for Pre-Reporting Preparation Homework

Sample: Story Pitch Form

Handout: Story Pitch Process Worksheet

Rubric: Story Pitch Process Worksheet Rubric

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Warm Up — 10 minutes

1. As a lesson teaser, challenge the students to write a tweet (140 character limit) summary of their personal news of the day. Use the Twitter Character Counter to help them count without actually having to use Twitter. Establish the rules: the tweet must be grammatically correct, no abbreviations, correct capitalization and punctuation. Encourage no shortcuts or tricks. Remind students to use the 5Ws and H (what, who, when, where, why, how). Afterwards ask some students to share their tweet with the class. Ask the students questions about their thought process. What did they want to make sure their audience learned about their day? Why did they feel that information was important enough to share first? Did the who and what take priority over the where and when? Explain. Did the word count allow for enough space to explain why and how? Explain? Was expressing tone and mood a challenge in the short character count? Use the discussion to help students understand and review how they make content decisions.

2. Share with the students the quote “if you can’t tell a story in a sentence or two, it probably isn’t worth telling.” As an extension activity you can add a discussion about agreement/disagreement with this quote. Explain just like we write a lead paragraph to hook the reader, including the 5Ws and H first ensures the audience gets the basics even if they don’t read the rest of story. Share with students they need to have the same thought in their approach to selling their stories to their editor.

Presentation — 40 minutes

3. Use the presentation “Tips for Story Pitch Meetings” to share with students guidelines and processes for content-decision meetings. Consider printing copies of the presentation to aid students in taking notes.

Exit Ticket/Homework

4. Using the assignment “Pre-Reporting Preparation Homework,” instruct students to think about the brainstorming, planning and thought that goes into an idea before it ever gets pitched to editorial decision makers. Either as an exit ticket or homework, have students complete the questionnaire/form, which could be distributed on paper or through a survey instrument such as Google Forms. Remind students of the staff goal to put the best coverage out for the student body. Stories need to inform, give insight, educate or entertain. Tell the students before putting an idea through the leg work of researching, reporters should ask themselves if their story concept is worth developing. In an exercise in self-analysis, tell students to think of five questions they should ask themselves before pitching a story idea to editorial decision makers. For each question they develop to test their concept, they should write a three to five sentence explanation of the question and how it provides validity or shows weakness.

Day 2 (:30-:50 minutes)

Independent Work — 30-50 minutes

5. Follow up with previous day’s lesson by modeling the story pitch process using the Story Pitch Process Worksheet. (It is our recommendation to use a story idea current and relevant to your school, but we will use a generic hypothetical situation.) Students will discover holes in the information they need to complete a story pitch. Assign them to finish gathering the preliminary information needed as homework.

Day 3 (:30-:50 minutes)

Story Pitch Meeting — 30-50 minutes

6. With the “Story Pitch Process Worksheet” complete and using the “Tips for Story Pitch Meetings” presentation, lead the class through a story pitch meeting. Model the meeting how you would like it to run for your class. Establish the meeting protocol and procedures that best fit your style and your classroom. Remember to make the meetings part of the staff routine. Be consistent. There are several rubrics available to assess the activities throughout this lesson.


Ways to differentiate this assignment:

  • Provide the students with a list of sample story ideas to develop to help them with a jump start to the story development process. Allow the students to concentrate on development the story angle rather than the concept.
  • Divide the class into small groups, and instruct the students to develop story pitch meeting protocol in their small group setting. Ask the groups to take turns demonstrating their story pitch meetings in front of the whole class. Guide the students through a reflection discussion of best practices to develop the class’s story pitch meeting procedure.