A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about whether to approve a writer’s pitch. It lacked one crucial element. If it had been present, it would have been a sure-fire win in my book.
If a writer’s pitch contains numbers that establish a trend, or establish that someone or something is worth a feature story, I am much more apt to approve the story. That’s because numbers are a near failsafe. Even if the story comes in under par, I know I’ll be able to rewrite it into something decent if there are numbers.
“Numbers” for me can mean a study (when I’m on the ball I’m apt to check a study’s size and methodology), or a conclusion that seems well established. Is a grocery store the only one of its kind in Brooklyn? I’d quiz the writer on how he or she knew.
Numbers could also represent change: a company’s growth, or a neighborhood’s development, for instance.
Numbers not only give me a feeling of security as an editor, they are a sign that a writer has put some effort into the pitch. That’s double security: I can rewrite the story if I have to, and it seems fairly unlikely that I will, because the writer is a professional.
Truthfully, I recognize that numbers are also a shortcut that writers and editors rely on too much, in lieu of the real analysis and reasoning. But a fact is a fact: In a week where I have a scant amount of time to make decisions about which pitches to approve, and which to delete, numbers often put one writer’s idea right over the top.