It’s been a while since I shared what pieces I’m looking for — which surely means you have been sending me enough good ideas to keep me away from Medium! But happy circumstances being what they are — the fantastic Summer Sewell joined my team as assistant features editor — I thought it was time for an update.
What I am looking for in 2019
Less, but better.
More narrative journalism, less mid-range news features.
More dialogue, more nuance, more complexities and ambivalence, less reaction pieces.
I’d like to put an emphasis on quality writing: sentences that make you weep; scenes that will stay with you forever; stories crazy enough you want to tell them at dinner parties.
I know this is a touchy subject, but for proper long form pieces, I’d like to receive more fleshed-out pitches (say, 5–8 paragraphs or more showing you have thought about who to reach out to and how, with some pre-reporting if applicable). I know this takes time and effort, but if I am committing to paying for travel, expenses and word count, not to mention for photography and art, I need to know the goods will be there once you hit the ground.
So, I hear you say, you’d like some examples? See below. (As I write this, I realise that every single story I loved editing pretended to be about something small, when really illuminated something much bigger about our world. Something to keep in mind…)
Stories with unforgettable central characters
- Bryan Mealer’s piece on the caravan was not only beautifully crafted, I will never, ever forget the family he followed. (He’s also a crazy-good writer, which helps).
- His piece about a road trip with his Trump-loving 92 year old cousin was bursting with empathy for humankind.
Stories about subcultures
- This piece by Ed Pilkington about the survivors of conspiracy theories was a home run. Affecting, powerful, beautifully told, scary as hell.
- This piece by Carey Dunne about underground LSD guides was eye-opening and fun to read and edit.
- I enjoyed working on this rabbit-hole piece by Max Benwell about the insane world of catfishers.
Crime stories — with strong narrative or reporting element
- I loved Oliver Conroy’s piece about Tim Miller, the man who can find almost anyone (but can he find his daughter’s killer?). One day I shall share with you how Oliver pitched this to me (if he agrees), because his pitch was a masterpiece of research.
- This piece by Kate Hodal about a woman’s desperate attempt to find her sister after she vanishes from a reservation in Montana was fantastic.
Stories about class in America (aka the underdogs)
Yep. This is still the topic I am obsessed with. So go forth and pitch…
- This, published with EHRP, on the plight of miners and black lungs, was damning.
- How America treats its Black Farmers, by Debbie Weingarten, was great.
- Where even Walmart won’t go: how Dollar General took over rural America was loved by our readers.
- Such as this one by Stephanie Land, author of Maid: The day my husband strangled me.
- This one: My fundamentalist childhood: less like a temple, more like a cage.
- Or this stunning one: What happens to your life after you accidentally kill someone?
Profiles to remember
- Like this one by Julian Brave Noisecat: His side of the story: Nathan Phillips wants to talk about Covington.
- This write-around about John Chau, the man who tried to convert his killers.
- This profile of Dorothy Counts, who endured a taunting mob to integrate a North Carolina school. Sixty-one years later, her work is being undone.
What are American values? (Problematic or not)
It’s a weird category but everything Donna Ladd did for us this year about (some part of) white people culture and their relationship to race has been mind-blowingly good.
- The white southerners who changed their views on racism
- Pride and prejudice? The Americans who fly the Confederate flag
- Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs
Any story acting as a conduit to ponder the nature of US values, I will usually love. (Here’s another: Guns v grief: inside America’s deadliest cultural chasm).
Plain great f — ing writing that doesn’t go in any of the categories above
- Like this stunner about the California fires, by John Vaillant.
Think pieces that are actually worth something (I know…)
I love a good stunt and I really do not receive enough pitches that make me laugh. My favorite of the year was Adam Gabbatt’s insane meat diet.
Get in touch:
jessica.reed at theguardian dot com; summer.sewell at theguardian dot com