CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–On the afternoon of Friday April 11, the Freedom Forum Conference Center of the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication buzzed with nervous energy as Pitch Day for the Reese News Lab kicked off. Six teams were ready to share the media ideas they tested over the semester.
The path to Pitch Day began just 14 weeks before with a blank piece of paper and a brainstorm. The only guidelines for the brainstorm were: think weather and think North Carolina politics.
After three months of developing their ideas, the teams filled in along the outskirts of the Freedom Forum. Last-minute pitch practice occurred in whispers as industry professionals, school faculty, families and friends arrived for the event. Though nerves were high, teams did not have anything to worry about.
“Once I got up there I was fine,” said Brooke Pryor, senior reporting major and member of one of the Reese News Lab teams.
The ideas pitched were well-developed and teams were prepared for any questions that the audience threw their way. Sara Peach, Associate Director of the Reese News Lab, was impressed by the creativity and the work of the students.
“We had some products that were really fun,” Peach said.
The event kicked off with a pitch from the gamut, an opinion magazine that seeks to promote witty dialogue and critical evaluation of arguments to the issues and topics that concern young people.
Then Weather Wager pitched a service that allows users to place no-risks bets on their weather forecasts.
The next idea presented was a pitch for Bench, a searchable database of North Carolina judges that sought to bring transparency to the North Carolina judicial system.
Then Digital Forest, a consulting company that aims to create environmentally focused advertisements for companies, was pitched.
The weathermApp team followed and pitched its idea for a crowd-sourced weather app aimed at commuters.
Pitch Day wrapped up with Capitol Quest, a multiplayer political strategy game that allows users to play as if they were a member of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The audience asked questions and rated the pitches for feasibility, viability and desirability. Audience members and Reese News Lab staff alike were impressed with the presentation.
Mike McCray, social media coordinator at the Fayetteville Observer, was excited about what students who had gone through the Reese News Lab process could bring to the industry in the future.
“I think it’s really great to get these ideas going because these kids are going to jump right into the newsroom,” McCray said.
The Lab prepares students to think critically and ask questions that many in the media industry don’t have the resources to tackle. At Pitch Day, teams showed what crazy ideas can turn into with time, energy and creativity.
“They took some risks,” Peach said, “In the ivory tower we don’t always think about ‘What if we could bet on the weather?’”
The six pitches that started as simple scribbles on the walls of the Lab became something tangible on Pitch Day. Though the teams had spent critical hours creating surveys, developing prototypes and testing potential users, it was in this moment that they proved that their ideas were not simply ideas.
“I wish I were back in school now. It’s so real-world,” said Kelly Gardner, web producer at WRAL, who attended the Pitch Day event.