How to pitch a WIRED UK science story

Matt Reynolds
May 18 · 4 min read

So you’re thinking about pitching a science story to WIRED UK. Great! I love hearing exciting ideas from writers I haven’t worked with before.

Below are a few pointers about the kind of science stories WIRED UK runs and how to pitch them. These aren’t exhaustive by any means, but they’re a good guide as to what I’m looking for when I go through pitches.

What WIRED UK does

Our stories run the gamut through politics, science, culture, security, business and a bunch of other sections. But they’re always about change — and the people who are altering the world for better or worse.

We hardly ever publish straight news. We only run a handful of stories a day, and always go in-depth and bring something new to our readers. That could mean delving behind the headlines and finding out how Brexit is impacting MP’s mental health or bringing something totally surprising to the table that our readers wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Usually, our stories are between 1,000 and 1,500 words. Enough to go in-depth on something but not so long that things get boring. If it’s a great story that needs more space, however, then we also publish stories all the way up to 5,000 words and beyond.

Three kinds of science story

WIRED UK’s science remit is large. It includes just about every science and science-adjacent area you could think of — all the way from food to genetics. And stories about the genetics of food, which I particularly love.

But most stories fall into one of the three following categories. The first two are more urgent and responsive, and require a more timely pitch, while the third is much broader.

1) A science angle on a massive news story happening today. Typically with big UK interest. ie, The physics of fighting the Notre Dame fire, How the London Marathon route slows runners down, Dog DNA tests are helping us make better puppers (tied to Crufts), How Brexit is pushing MPs to the verge of mental breakdown

2) The in-depth version of a big science story. When a massive science story hits, rather than covering it straight we can come at it with a “How they did this” or something like that. This could also include myth-busting style pieces when you know research is likely to be poorly communicated elsewhere. ie, How we imaged the black hole, How we heard the first ever marsquake, Why do we all seem to be having less sex? Blame honesty, Jeff Bezos wants to colonise space, but he’s paying for it by destroying Earth

3) This is the most interesting section — and the one where I need the most help from you . Original stories that people just won’t have heard elsewhere. ie, The elderly farmers fuelling China’s AI revolution, the fight against super-gonorrhoea, The dinosaur trade: how celebrity collectors and glitzy auctions could be damaging science, How China’s WeChat became a grim heart of illegal animal trading, The decades-long quest to end drought (and
feed millions) by taking the salt out of seawater
, The clean meat industry is racing to ditch its reliance on foetal blood, The unending hunt for Planet Nine, our solar system’s hidden world

These can go in-depth on a story that people think they know, but really don’t, or introduce something completely new. Often, these run longer than the other two categories.

Some general pointers

  1. Pitch stories, not themes. Tell me a story about the farmers on X farm who are experimenting with genetically-modified strawberries because they think it’ll let them replace their workforce with robots — not a story about farming automation or genetically-modified food.
  2. Characters, characters, characters. Science stories can be a bit dry — but that’s because we’re guilty of overlooking the humans involved and forget to tell the stories of people pursuing their hunch to the ends of the Earth, fighting small battles of huge significance or who are unafraid to push the boundaries of science. Talk to those people, and find them in whatever story you’re telling.
  3. Science is culture. Some of the most interesting science stories never see the inside of a scientific journal. I’m interested in wellness, food fads, sleep-hacking and pseudoscience and way more — pitch me stories about these things too.
  4. Timeliness helps. A lot of stories are borderline interesting but have no “why now” about them, and that doesn’t give people much of a reason to read them. There doesn’t have to be a big news hook, but making your story feel timely can help push it from “interesting” to “we have to publish this”.

Email me

I’m on mattr [at] wired [dot] co [dot] uk

Send me a headline, plus a paragraph or two outlining your idea, and the general arc of the story. Let me know who you’d speak to as part of it, or where you’d visit. If it requires a timely response, please flag that at the top of the email.

If you’ve got any questions, drop me an email or find me on Twitter. And if you’re passing through London, then feel free to get in touch and we can go for a coffee.