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Freelance contest: Win in-depth mentoring, earn a UPI byline and $200

Want a professional journalist to help you fine-tune your reporting? Need a byline for your portfolio, and a little extra cash? Get it all with our freelance reporting contest.

We’re looking for top student reporters from around the globe to pitch their best story ideas about energy issues. No, this isn’t necessarily about the Kyoto Protocol or international politics surrounding climate change. Instead, think local: Local or traditional energy sources, innovations in your region, recent impacts of climate change in your own backyard, or other issues unique to your area.

We’ll choose the top three ideas, assign a UPIU mentor to work closely with the winners, and pay each student $200 once their stories are published on UPI.com!

How does it work? In the journalism world, reporters pitch story ideas to editors. That’s what we want you to do here. The THREE best story pitches will be chosen. You can pitch up to TWO story ideas, although only one of them will be chosen for the contest.

Who is eligible? If you are an aspiring journalist, you’re eligible to submit a story pitch, no matter where you live, as long as you have a UPIU profile. (Go here to set one up!)

What should my story pitch be about? Energy is a big story these days, from Japan’s nuclear crisis to climate change. We want you to find a local story with international appeal about energy. Think about it: New technologies are making it cheaper and easier to extract energy form previously inefficient sources, and some regions of the world, once starved for energy, have found new ways to harvest more than they need. Meanwhile, mountains in certain regions of the U.S. are being destroyed by a hunger for coal, and people in areas of Asia and Africa purchase electricity by the hour from small-town entrepreneurs.

Tell us about the energy situation in your part of the world. What’s happening? What’s surprising? Are there old problems that persist? Are there new solutions that are changing everything?

Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Is your country an energy producer or energy consumer? If you produce and export fuel or energy, how is that changing? Are there new laws, transport issues, market problems that are affecting energy resources in your area?
  • Are energy prices high or low in your region? Even with oil prices through the roof, some areas, like Brazil, have economical fuel options like ethanol. But for how much longer? If energy prices are high, how does that affect other costs in your economy? In the U.S., transportation costs have skyrocketed along with diesel fuel, and it’s finally making its way to the customer’s price tag on everything from food to clothing. Are energy costs driving inflation in your country?
  • Who owns the energy resources, and distribution system, in your country? In the U.S., private companies own the oil rights, land, and equipment used to find and extract oil. But in China, much of the energy production grid is state-owned. Find out how this is changing in your country, or how the energy producers in your region are responding to rising energy demands.
  • Is your energy industry prepared for natural (or manmade) disasters? Haiti, Indonesia, Japan — the first stories out of these countries following their recent disasters was about energy, how it was disrupted, or how it endangered the nation’s citizens.
  • Are individuals creating their own energy? In the U.S., homeowners are harnessing streams on their property to create hydropower, or installing geo-thermal units to tap the earth’s own heat. In some cases they’re capturing so much energy, they sell back their excess capacity to the electric companies they once paid.
  • Is technology making energy consumption more efficient in your area? From simple computerized thermostats to high-tech electric-rationing grids, computer systems can make energy resources go farther than ever before. What technologies are in use in your country, and which are delivering real value?
  • Is energy politicized in your country? If so how? How do differing political groups deal with energy issues, and how does that affect energy delivery in your area?

Your story must be timely, and must have strong news value. We DON’T want a story that is a general overview of energy consumption or distribution. We DO want a story that reveals something new or noteworthy about how the energy picture is changing in your country. Your story must have a SPECIFIC focus.

Remember, we’re looking for three unique story pitches. We won’t choose three pitches that are similar.

What makes a good story pitch? Tell us, in one or two succinct paragraphs, what your story idea is. Your idea must have news value. It must be timely, with a solid news hook. Give us details that show you’ve done some preliminary reporting. Tell us who you intend to interview, and where and how you will find your sources. Remember, we’re judging the pitches based on the final stories we want to see. If you pitch a story, we expect to see that final product. If your final product does not match your pitch, you won’t be paid the full freelance stipend, and you won’t earn a UPI.com byline.

Can I pitch a multimedia story? Yes, we love stories with multimedia elements! In fact, story pitches with ideas for photos, video clips or other multimedia are preferred.

What we DON’T want:

  • Pitches that are longer than two paragraphs, or pitches that are two extremely long paragraphs, will be discarded.
  • If the story idea is a good one but the pitch doesn’t include details of who will be interviewed for the story, the pitch will be tossed.
  • If the story pitch doesn’t fulfill the topic outlined above, the pitch will be thrown out.
  • If you submit more than two story ideas, all of your story ideas will be ineligible.
  • Pitches that are submitted in any way other than via the UPIU message system will be discarded.

If you choose my story pitch, what’s the next step? UPIU mentors will work with you to develop a reporting plan for your story, as well as an initial outline. Once you do your reporting, your mentor will ask for an updated outline. By the time you write your story, your mentor should have a good idea of what the final product will be.

What happens if my story doesn’t work out? If we accept your story pitch but you don’t deliver, you’ll be paid what’s known as a kill fee of $25. That means that we appreciate the effort you made to produce a good story, but your work doesn’t fit our needs. If your story is killed, we’ll think twice about approving your story pitch the next time around, so make sure you can produce the story you pitch!

What’s the deadline and how do I submit my pitch? Send your story pitch to Krista Kapralos via the UPIU message system by 12 p.m.. EST on Tuesday, July 5. If your story is chosen, the final product will be due at 12 p.m. EST on Mon., Aug. 8.

Still not sure where to start? Check out this story from Muthoki Mumo of Kenya – she earned $100 by pitching, reporting and writing it for our first freelance contest. Like Muthoki’s, your story should be unique, well-reported and professional.

More questions? Email UPIU Regional Director and Senior Mentor Krista Kapralos at kkapralos@upi.com.
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