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WRITING FOR THE MEDIA
Sample Pitch Letters

  • Sample Pitch Letter #1: Reporters fired for reporting

  • Sample Pitch Letter #2: International meeting on toxic chemicals


    Sample Pitch Letter #1

    December 9, 1998

    Ilyse Veron
    NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
    Fax: 703/998-1857

    Dear Ilyse:

    In December 1997 veteran investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were fired by Fox Television-owned WTVT/Channel 13 in Tampa, Florida, when they refused to yield to pressure from Fox Television officials who demanded they alter an investigative report on Monsanto's genetically-engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) sold under the name Posilac(r).

    RBGH induces higher milk production in dairy cows. Though legal since approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1993, rBGH has been linked to cancer and is banned throughout Europe and unapproved in several other countries because of human health concerns.

    If the report had aired, it would have reported that Florida dairies were secretly injecting rBGH into cows after promising not to sell milk from cows treated with rBGH. The report also revealed that Florida supermarkets reneged on promises not to sell milk from treated cows until the hormone gained widespread acceptance by consumers.

    WTVT originally reviewed the investigative reports and scheduled them to air in four parts beginning February 24, 1997, and had even launched an extensive radio ad campaign to draw attention to the series. But virtually on the eve of the broadcast, the station pulled the reports after Monsanto hired a renowned New York attorney to complain to a top official of Channel 13's parent company, Fox Television.

    Subsequent letters from Monsanto to Fox Television further delayed the airing. Finally, WTVT officials refused to kill the story for fear the viewing public would learn the station yielded to pressure from special interests. Instead, Wilson and Akre were ordered to broadcast a version which contained demonstrably false information and were threatened with dismissal within 48 hours if they refused to do so.

    After nine months of rewriting the story more than 70 times, Akre and Wilson were suspended but ordered to write two final versions of the report while suspended.

    On April 2, 1998, Akre and Wilson filed a lawsuit charging the station with violating Florida's whistleblower act by firing the journalists for refusing to broadcast false reports.

    The case speaks to larger issues: how many news organizations have been subjected to pressure not to tell the truth by those who stand to profit most from continued use of BGH? And beyond deciding not to tell the story at all, how frequently do news organizations insist their reporters slant the story in favor of the special interests that may threaten to sue or cancel advertising?

    I encourage you to visit Akre and Wilson's website, the "BGH Bulletin," at http://www.foxbghsuit.com/index2.htm. It includes a list of all of their sources.

    With best regards,

    (Your name here)


    Sample Pitch Letter #2

    Reporter Name
    Title, Outlet

    Dear Name:

    On June 29, representatives from 120 nations will gather in Montreal to begin negotiations on a historic treaty aimed at restricting and phasing out worldwide production, use and stockpiles of the world's most dangerous chemicals. These manmade chemicals, known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), are highly toxic, with data linking them to instances of dysfunction of the immune and metabolic systems, neurological deficits, reproductive abnormalities and cancer.

    On Wednesday, June 17, x of the country's leading experts on POPs, including representatives of the Clinton Administration and the International POPs Elimination Network, a working group of nonprofit public health and environmental organizations, will conduct a series of one-on-one media briefings on POPs. They will be available to discuss the science behind the concerns about POPs, the latest information on the effects of POPs in various parts of the world, and the upcoming treaty process. I am writing to invite you to meet with them at your office to discuss this important issue and the upcoming international negotiations.

    The Briefers

    [insert bio data on briefers]

    Background on the Issue

    Persistent Organic Pollutants are primarily products and by-products of human enterprise from industrial processes, chemical manufacturing and resulting waste, and are of relatively recent origin, dating to the boom in industrial production after World War II. POPS have contaminated ecosystems and food supplies in most regions of the world because they have the ability to travel long distances from their sources due to wind, water and bioaccumulation in animals. Therefore, these highly toxic compounds are being reintroduced into countries -- like the U.S. -- where their use has already been curtailed.

    Governments have targeted 12 POPs -- the "dirty dozen" -- for early action under proposed terms of a global, legally binding treaty. The most problematic are DDT, PCBs, dioxins and furans. These 12 were chosen as the starting point for mandated action because all 12 are widely found in our environment and in our food, all are very well-studied, and all have the potential to cause significant health and ecosystem injury through environmental contamination of fish, meat and milk.

    I hope you will take this opportunity to hear about this issue from some of the nation's leading experts, as well as get the perspective of both the Clinton Administration and the NGO community before the start of this critical two-year treaty process.

    I will follow up with you shortly to see if a meeting will be possible. In the meantime, please call me with any questions you have. I can be reached at phone number.

    Sincerely,


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