Journalism has a real problem with diversity. In response to the lopsided rosters at many newsrooms and in the list of published bylines, a freelance writer named Harron Walker posted a thread to Twitter about the ways in which white freelancers can share institutional knowledge with freelancers of color. She offered to connect writers of color with editors she has worked with, and went on to share tips on pitching. I want to do the same.
Since the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina, I am at a loss for what to do or say. Sharing my pitches here feels like one small way I can contribute to something more positive.
Below you will find:
· Two of my pitches including the email conversations with the editors
· Tips on pitching that I follow
· An offer to put writers/journalists of color in touch with editors I may know + an offer to read your pitches and give feedback, if you think that will be helpful
Let me start with the last one: you can reach me at jessicam0175 at gmail dot com. Write [PITCHES] in the subject line. Let me know if you are working on a deadline.
Pitching Tips I Follow
I rarely pitch blind to an editor. I almost always pitch to editors I know, even tenuously, so most of my ongoing pre-pitching work is actually participating in professional email listservs or Facebook groups, going to events to meet people, and trying to get my name known through things like the Q&A site I have, ReportHers.
When you send a pitch email:
· Get to the point almost immediately
· Don’t pitch something you can’t deliver on (do pre-reporting first)
· If you are pitching to more than one outlet at a time, mention that in the email
· Don’t be afraid to follow up within a reasonable time; editors are busy
· Don’t take initial silence for a rejection
· Don’t take a story rejection for anything other than a reject of that story idea
· When your pitch gets canned, pitch a new story based on feedback from the editor
· If you know an editor, ask them if there are stories they have been asking for but haven’t gotten yet (don’t do this blindly to editors you don’t know)
· Do research on what the publication is looking for and whether they (or other outlets) have published the story you are pitching
· Join and use professional groups like Binders Full of Women on Facebook or the NYC Public Radio Listserv
· Don’t be afraid to ask for more money (I usually say, “I was hoping for more like TK.” Or “My rates are usually TK, is that something you can do?”
· Alumni magazines often pay decently; if you have an interesting person to profile, consider pitching to their alma mater; Also in-flight magazines like Delta Sky mag pay pretty well, too
Ok, to the pitches. Pitches below are to the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight. I’ve included the full email chains in case the conversations around the pitches are useful. (Also, I made this crowd-sourced sheet for freelance rates that might be helpful. Note that it’s a few years old. http://bit.ly/journorates)
Published piece: link
Notes: This was a blind pitch but a friend who had recently written for the editor told me he would probably like a story like this and gave me his email. Also, Andy Newman no longer edits City Room blog; he now writes a Pets column for the Times.
From Andy: “When I was an editor one of the most important things in considering a pitch was whether the writer seemed to actually be familiar with the kinds of stories we ran. Very often I would get pitches from people where it was obvious that if they’d taken 10 minutes to peruse the blog they wouldn’t have even wasted their time pitching us, or would have taken a totally different approach with their pitch.”
From: Jessica Glazer
Date: Sun, May 19, 2013 at 2:48 PM
Subject: **Time Sensitive** Pitch: Hundreds camp out for days to get into a union
To: Newman, Andy
Hundreds of people are camping out for days on the sidewalks in Queens this weekend, all for the chance to apply for the apprentice program at Local 3 elevator union. Tomorrow at 9am the doors will open and the union will give out 750 pre-numbered applications, and only a fraction of that 750 will get into the five year program.
I propose going to the union office tomorrow to do a spot news piece, to add to what I have already written (below). I have a call into the union but their office is closed over the weekend.
I am a freelance writer who has been published in City Limits and The Associated press, among others. Given that this is time sensitive, I am pitching it around but think it its best at City Room.
Camping out for job security
Staring on Thursday, hundreds of men and a few women set up their tents and air mattresses on the sidewalk, unpacked their Coronas and cards, and settled in to wait.
On Monday morning an elevator union would start to hand out applications for its training program. Those in wait were hoping for a chance at job security, higher salaries and the other benefits that come with being in a union.
Andres Loaiza, 25, has his eye on a position that includes minimal physical labor.
“I want to get to that point where I would troubleshoot and not kill my back anymore,” said Loaiza. Plus, he said the union would provide college funding for his son, now four years old.
Every TK years, Local 3 IBEW’s Joint Apprentice and Training Committee accepts applications for its apprentice program. For a two-week period starting May 20, the union will be handing out the 750 pre-numbered applications from the second floor of their Long Island City office, though the applications, which include tenth-grade math questions, likely won’t last that long.
[[Of the 750 applications, TK percent pass the test, and TK percent get into the program. TK percent of training program participants stay through the [5-year] program and get into the union.]]
They lined the sidewalk along 36th Street, across from people drinking beer at Studio Square, past the Astor Room pumping jazz fusion from its speakers, and along the huge building of Kauffman Studios, where one morning some men said they were given left-over breakfast originally intended for the movie studio’s extras.
While they came prepared with dominoes, iPhones, camping lights and tarps, by Friday many of them were bored, pacing. By Saturday it would start to rain.
Over night, they brushed their teeth with bottles of water, tucked into their sleeping bags, folding chairs or cars, and tried to get some rest on the concrete.
Many of the people on the line have held various odd jobs, from dog walker, to lifeguard in private Manhattan buildings, to restaurant work, to laying tile with another union, Local 7.
On Saturday as a light drizzle fell around lunchtime, four new friends leaned over a camping grill with sizzling burgers and sausages that they had bought from a nearby grocery store, which had also opened its bathroom to them.
Gerry Dubatowka, 20, whose father is in Local 3, came down from Orange County, NY to wait for his shot at the union. He is in his first year studying electrical technology at OC Community College, but he’d rather work with his hands than be in school.
“I just want to do be in whatever, wherever I got to start,” he said. “I want steady work all the time.”
Dubatowka met Loaiza and two other men, CarlosRamirez, 23, and Edwin Deleon, 38, waiting on the line. Soon, they started referring to each other as neighbors. Loaiza, wearing work boots and worn jeans, said that he and Ramirez, a lanky guy in an Aeropostale t-shirt and red sneakers, had shared the air mattress in a small camping tent the night before.
“We slept together, if that’s what you mean,” said Loaiza, clarifying. “Not in shifts.”
They four of them huddled under a tarp, taking turns at the grill. Admittedly bored, they joked around about their new rent-stabilized temporary homes, shared beer and burgers,and hoped it wasn’t going to pour.
This, Deleon said, is what’s it’s all about. The brotherhood.
— — —
On May 19, 2013, at 4:05 PM, “Newman, Andy” wrote:
Jessica — what are these jobs? Elevator repairman? Elevator operator? Other?
/sent via telephone/
— — —
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 04:57 PM
Electrical work, I believe. Local 3 is an electrician’s union, but this is specifically for elevator work within hat union.
— — — —
On May 19, 2013, at 5:34 PM, “Newman, Andy” wrote:
ok I am in the middle of a bunch of stuff but will get back to you this evening when I can get 10mins to think this thru.
If you did write for cityroom we wouldn’t be able to offer much $, maybe 75 or so. Is that a dealbreaker?
/sent via telephone/
— — — —
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 05:40 PM
Thanks for the consideration, Andy. $75 is fine.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Published piece: link
Notes: I found the editor through a Facebook post she wrote asking for pitches in the Binders Full of Women group. Simone Landon is no longer at 538, but is now an editor at Vice.
From: Jessica Glazer
Date: Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 12:29 PM
Subject: criminal justice at FiveThirtyEight
To: Landon, Simone
I saw your post on the Binder page and am interested! I am currently a contract reporter covering education in NYC at Chalkbeat, but I have written for the New York Times, NPR.org and others. I have experience with data (and producing data visualizations and graphics). And actually, next week I am going on a two-day training on how to better cover mass incarceration and the war on drugs for in-depth stories with limited resources.
What are you looking for? My contract is up in a few weeks and I freelance now as well. My resume is attached.
— — —
Sent: Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 12:54 PM
Hi Jessica, thanks for reaching out.
Really I’m interested in expanding FiveThirtyEight’s coverage beyond elections and sports, and am looking for contributors on a range of topics (just thinking about criminal justice right now since it’s in the news and not something we’ve covered much). I’m also currently recruiting writers who focus on education — and it looks like you definitely have experience there.
Does it make sense to set up a time to chat via phone after your contract is up?
— — —
Sent: Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 1:40 PM
Sure thing. I’ll get in touch in a few weeks.
Alternatively, I have the freedom to freelance, including about some education issues so if you had something in particular you wanted, we could talk about that too!
If not, I’ll email in a few weeks to set up a time to talk on the phone.
— — —
Sent: Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Sounds good. Thinks are both busy and slow here (last week of August, lots of vacations) so touching base in a few weeks might make the most sense for me.
Looking forward to catching up,
— — —
Sent: Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Sounds good. I just got back from a two-day training up in the Adirondacks (prison country) where I learned a ton and got to speak with the recent former commissioner of the NYS prison system. The biggest business in northern New York is prisons, but it’s never discussed in the open and most of them are physically hidden in the trees.
— — —
Sent: Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 7:23 PM
I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. I am following up to see if you have any time this week to chat. I’ve been thinking about writing for FiveThirtyEight about criminal justice and education and hoped to learn more.
My schedule is somewhat flexible, so I could do a pitch memo or write a piece for you if you wanted to see what I could do.
— — —
Sent: Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Thanks for following up. Would you have time tomorrow or Thursday afternoon? I’d just like to have a brief call about our pitch process and what FiveThirtyEight is looking for, and we could discuss any story ideas if you have them (totally fine if you don’t). Does 2 or 3 pm either day work for you?
— — —
Simone and I talked on the phone. I pitched and then wrote a piece about parole. I later pitcher her again, below.
— — —
Date: Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Subject: New pitch abt Black Friday
This pitch I can bang out much quicker than a parole story. Let me know if you are interested.
The retail advertisements make it seem like Black Friday deals are crazy good, and worth your frenzied attention. One-time deals only, right? But, a study by NerdWallet found that 93 percent of the 27 retailers reviewed featured ads this year with at least one item that they offered for the exact same price as last year. Not exactly a one-time-only deal. The study also looked at the amount of time it takes a middle-income American family to pay off holiday debt.
In fact, higher income families hold onto holiday debt slightly longer than lower income families. Households with incomes between $50k and $75k will take 2.6 months, on average, to pay off holiday debt. Families with a $50k income will take an average of 2 months.
***I propose writing a post about this report, talking to some shoppers about how much they typically spend and how long it takes them to pay it off, for a little color. It’s a timely story that people will be interested in as the holiday shopping season kicks into full gear. Interested?
There’s also opportunity for illustrations as the header image, or a few in the article page, if we have the time.
It doesn’t look like many media outlets have covered this, aside from a Time post today.
— — — -
Sent: Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM
I like this idea, more the latter half about holiday debt than the former. It seems to me more like a blog post for us, though (sub-600 words), so I’m cc-ing Micah, our Datalab editor, and Carla, who’s coordinating our holiday coverage.
On top of that, I’m on vacation next week, so they would probably handle edits. I think this story would fit well in our editorial calendar on Monday Dec. 1, so right after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Does that make sense?
— — — -
Sent: Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 9:22 PM
Subject: Re: New pitch abt Black Friday
To: “Cohen, Micah”
Just touching base about this story, December 1 deadline, $200, around 600 words. I already signed a WMFH contract for my last 538 piece — do I need to sign anything further for this piece, particularly in the case of establishing a kill fee?
The piece is going to look at the fact that it takes middle-income families longer to pay off their student loan debt than lower-income families and why that is, in addition to take stock of holiday spending year to year, and what people are spending their holiday money on.
Is there anything in particular you want me to include?
— — — -
Sent: Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Jessica, I don’t think you need to sign anything else. I’ll send a note to our admin to arrange payment.
There’s nothing else in particular that I would recommend including. It sounds like a good post.
— — — -
Sent: Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 1:51 PM
Sounds great! Thanks.