Black History: Going to Ghana

NBCU Academy Presents “Behind the Story”

Senior Director of News Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leonor Ayala sat down with Nightly News senior producer Janelle Richards to talk about the art of pitching enterprise stories for broadcast.

This week, our “Behind the Story” focuses on pitching big ideas while leaning into your perspective.


Leonor Ayala: How did you start your career in journalism?

Janelle Richards: I started with internships—I really feel like they are the best step into the industry. And I did a lot of internships in college, but then I went to graduate school at Columbia University. I went to their J-School and then started in the News Associates Program – so those were my first steps into media.

Ayala: To the young, aspiring journalists that might be joining us, what words of wisdom do you have for journalists of color about pitching stories that might feel a little or a lot personal? What would you say to them?

Richards: Our stories always matter. So even if, you know, you think there’s not a particular news peg, or no one is interested in your story right now, if it is something that’s important to you and your community or your friends, then it’s important to a lot of other people, too.

Ayala: As journalists and producers of color we sometimes feel we are walking this line of not pitching too many “Black” stories, or too many “Latino” stories, for fear of being typecast or branded as either an activist or just someone who can’t do other types of stories. What are your words of wisdom to journalists who might be feeling this angst?

Richards: Yeah, I would honestly say lean into it. Lean into your perspective. Lean into your diverse background. Lean into the things that you love and are passionate about.

Ayala: Without giving away too much, what is the one story you still want to tell?

Richards: I keep a running list in my phone of story ideas, and so I need to go to that list and just say, “what’s next?” Now I need to look through that list and say, “okay, what am I really motivated about and have the energy to get done right now?” I do want to work on another digital documentary. As someone who has been producing stories for Nightly News which range from a minute to two minutes to three minutes in length – having 15 minutes to tell a story is really exciting. And so, I look forward to continuing to build on that skill set.