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Instructions for the major assignments

Assignments are due in Canvas on the dates noted in the syllabus, all at 11:55 p.m. unless otherwise instructed. Late work is penalized 10% per day. You are responsible for assuring that your submission has been correctly uploaded. There is no rewrite for this assignment. The document files should be titled yourlastname, followed by the number of the assignment as listed below; for example, perry1.


1. Letter of Introduction

2. Pitch Letter (R) due Oct. 1

Write a formal business letter on behalf of the AEC Agency to a newspaper editor, pitching a story idea approved by your instructors. The purpose of the pitch letter is to interest the editor so that he or she will assign a reporter to cover the story. Communicators often use pitch letters instead of writing a press release, and sometimes they use them to accompany a press release, especially about a coming event.

Aim the pitch at a specific editor of a specific newspaper or other news outlet. Take the time to find the name and correct title of an editor at a news outlet that would be an appropriate place for your news story to appear. The story idea should be newsworthy. That means it should interest readers with one or more of the news values discussed in class.

The letter should be written to be persuasive. Try to convince the editor that your proposed story would interest the newspaper's readers. The best pitch letters are direct and to the point, from the very first sentence. The first sentence is written to pique the editor's interest and often reads like a lead on a news story. We will discuss leads in class.

Here's a link to what one PR organization has to say about pitch letters, with some examples: http://www.publicityinsider.com/pitch.asp. If you Google pitch letters, you'll find many more examples. (Use your own judgment about whether they are good examples, or you can ask Dr. Perry.) Here is some sage advice from Bad Pitch Blog: "Do not rush a letter. The process—finding the right targets, reviewing their recent work, writing, rewriting, editing, thinking, proofing—it takes time and it's worth it." (From "Five Crucial Tips for a Perfect Pitch Letter" at http://badpitch.blogspot.com/2009/02/five-crucial-tips-for-perfect-pitch.html.)

In order to write an effective letter, you will need to have chosen your article idea by Friday, Sept. 15. Please discuss your ideas with Dr. Perry if you are not sure.

Format the letter as shown on pages 50-56 of your textbook, using plain American English and the ABC structure modified for the newsworthy angle, as discussed in class. Include the elements discussed in class and listed below. The letter should be about 500 words in length (450-550) and is worth 75 points. It is due Oct. 1. Proper formatting will be assessed along with your writing.

Here is an example of an "A" pitch letter. DON'T FOLLOW IT PRECISELY, as it does have some errors, and requirements have been added since it was written. Remember that among the five W's, what is usually most important, not when, as this example uses (in error).


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Pitch Letter Grading Rubric

Structure (20%)
__ The letter is about 500 words (450-550).
__ The assignment is submitted in MS Word via Canvas with the correctly styled file name.
__ The letter is structured following a traditional format for business letters, including the
return address, date, inside address with specific editor's name, formal salutation and
complimentary close.
__ The return address is the agency’s address and does NOT include the writer’s name.

Content (40%)
__ The writer's proposed story idea is newsworthy.
__ The newsworthy idea is featured in the first paragraph.
__ After the newsworthy idea, the letter is organized with the ABC structure.
__ The letter covers who, what, when, where, why and how.
__ The letter includes a clear statement of purpose — what you want the editor to do.
__ The letter includes a statement that the writer will be in touch within the week.
__ Contact information is included in the body of the letter.

Writing (40%)
__ The letter is written to be persuasive.
__ The writing is conversational and direct, using active sentences.
__ Sentences are complete and not run-ons.
__ Paragraphs are short but well developed.
__ Transitions are used appropriately.
__ The writing is concise.
__ The writing is clear.
__ The writing is free from grammatical errors.
__ The writing is free from capitalization errors.
__ The writing is free from spelling errors.
__ Punctuation is used correctly.

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3. Press Release 1 (R) due Oct. 15
4. Cover Letter & Résumé due Oct. 22
5. PSA
6. Article on Science Topic (R)

7. Web Summary & Tweet

8. Article for AEC/CALS (R)
9. Advocacy Feature on Science Issue
10. Issue-Tracking Report