Week 2: Here’s the pitch

Today I made my second visit to a local high school with 826 Chicago. I’ve made the semester-long commitment to work with a creative writing class on their journalism schools. I fell in love with journalism during high school and was really excited when I heard about this particular opportunity with 826.

Last week, the kids brought us their story pitches, created with 826’s awesome “Pitch-o-matic” worksheet. During class we worked to better develop and focus their pitches, which will turn into an article they publish at the end of the semester. Considering the students have about six weeks to do all the research, interviewing and initial draft writing for these stories, a lot of their original pitches needed tweaking.

So this week a lot of the students came back with stronger pitches and more of a direction for their stories. Others, not so much. But so far one of my favorite parts of this process has just been hearing their ideas. Here are a few that I overheard today:

  • Awkwardness on the CTA (I can’t wait to read this one as I am a victim)
  • Consequences of teen pregnancy (Another student is writing about abortion)
  • What teachers do after school (What?! They don’t just sit at home watching bad tv and drinking coffe? Do they go to real parties? -actual student brainstorming quotes)
  • Animals versus humans! (We narrowed this down quite a bit, it was just a little too epic for only six weeks of research)
  • Why doesn’t the owner of the candy store accept pennies or crumpled dollar bills? (I don’t know why I’m so excited about this story but it’s definitely investigative journalism at it’s finest)

Something we talked a lot about this morning was being ambitious, but limiting your ambitions with this project to be more realistic. To help them narrow down their pitch, we went through questions an editor might have if presented with their story idea.

If you’ve ever been a writer, you know these are things that come second nature to you after years of practice. But using these steps, questions like, “Who is the audience?” or “What sources can I talk to” and “What’s the local angle?”, really helped each student’s pitch come alive and take the form of the beginning of a story.

This week the students’ homework is to hold their first interview with one of their sources. I’m excited to see what they come back with next week. I’m hoping for great (and slightly humorous quotes), a lot of good information and a better grasp on each pitch.

But I’m trying to keep my ambitions realistic.

Learn more

Want to learn more about tutoring programs offered by 826? Visit
their website at 826Chicago.org.

Intersted in volunteering? There are plenty of ways to get
involved. Learn more about all the opportunities at 826Chicago.org/Get_Involved.

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