Health Journalism 2014: Freelance PitchFest
Friday, March 28, 1:50-3:50 p.m.
Attention independent journalists! Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Denver to meet you! Bring your best ideas to the AHCJ Freelance PitchFest. This session has been created to give you an opportunity to sit down and discuss your ideas one-on-one with editors from selected publications.
To participate, you will sign up for time with the editors and come prepared to sell your work. That means you need to arrive with specific pitches for the editors, as well as clips, resume, etc. We have provided information below about what each editor is looking for, so please use that to your advantage. Do not show up with just a business card to hand out.
Get strategies to succeed:
AHCJ hosted a webcast on Feb. 28 especially for independent journalists who are planning to take part in the Freelance PitchFest at Health Journalism 2014. Our panel of editors offered their best advice on how to make your pitch communicate a story, and impress them in the process.
We also strongly recommend watching last year's "Secrets of pitching: Tips, tricks and insight into editors’ minds," a webcast with three top editors and an experienced freelancer that will help you prepare for the PitchFest.
You must be a professional journalist, an AHCJ member and already registered for the conference to sign up for PitchFest appointments. AHCJ reserves the right to cancel appointments of anyone who is not qualified.
Each appointment is for seven minutes.
You may sign up for THREE appointments during the advance sign-up period and an additional TWO appointments at the conference – if they are available. If you wait to sign up for appointments at the conference, you will be able to sign up for THREE appointments – if they are available. On-site sign-ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, and will end when registration closes on Thursday, March 27.
You may only sign up for one appointment for each editor and your selections are not final until you receive a confirmation from AHCJ the week before the conference.
When you sign up, you will have the opportunity to share the URL of your website, LinkedIn profile or another page, as well as a brief bio. That information will be available to the editors.
Five Simple Rules for PitchFest Etiquette:
Show up. If you fail to show up for any of your appointments, you will not be allowed to sign up in advance for next year’s PitchFest. Additionally, be aware that the booked editor will have your name, potentially harming your reputation with that publication for years to come.
Prepare carefully. We've posted blurbs from editors describing what they want so read those to find out what each editor wants. For example, news editors won't want to hear a pitch for a feature. Study the publication to make certain your pitch is a good fit.
Arrive in plenty of time. We will run on time and we will run like clockwork. If you are late, you forfeit your pitch.
Respect the time limit. When you hear the one-minute warning, start to wrap up. When you hear time called, please get up, thank the editor and say you'll follow up with an email.
Understand the limits. Please recognize that attending PitchFest does not guarantee you a sale. It does guarantee you an opportunity to pitch face-to-face to editors who are extremely difficult to access, even by email.
The advance sign-up period has ended. On-site sign ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, and will end when registration closes on Thursday, March 27.
Betsy Agnvall, AARP Bulletin
The easiest way to start out with AARP publications is through assignments for the website, aarp.org. We regularly assign weekly Friday health features at 800 to 1,000 words. These features range from "web candy" slideshows to more in-depth pieces for our 50 audience. Consider new ways to help readers with the obvious chronic conditions and diseases as well as fresh ideas to intrigue our audience and answer their health questions.
We cover breaking health studies in blogs, so the features should encompass the latest science and include expert interviews. AARP The Magazine is looking for stories four to six months out that are timely without being faddish. Look for patterns in health news and craft a pitch that can be packaged in a new way. The AARP Bulletin tends to run newsier articles and more policy stories.
David Corcoran, The New York Times
Unfortunately, opportunities for new freelancers are quite limited. Most material in the section comes from staff writers or regular contributors.
We do look at articles and essays on spec, and we make very occasional assignments for news features that catch our eye. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
• The article should be newsy and timely. It should tell readers something they don’t already know, and within the first few paragraphs it should answer the question “Why are you telling me this now?”
• Topics can range widely over science and health, but bear in mind that important news developments, including major findings reported in science and medical journals, are likely to be covered by our staff writers. The best outside articles are those that make a reader (in this case an editor) sit up and take notice, by calling attention to a surprising or underreported development or trend.
• Articles generally run 500 to 1,500 words. Science Times pays $1 a word on publication. Queries or pitches (one at a time, please) should run no more than 300 words.
• The pitch or cover letter should indicate whether the news has already been reported — in The Times, the mainstream press (including websites, TV and radio) or scientific journals. A “yes” answer does not necessarily mean we’re not interested, but we need to know what kind of exposure the story has had.
Tasha Eichenseher, Yoga Journal
Yoga Journal has a nearly 40-year history of covering yoga, meditation, and general wellness trends. The magazine has technical features and columns about yoga poses and sequences, but it also runs features and news stories on nutrition, stress, insomnia, ego, and other health, psychology, and philosophy topics. We accept pitches for the following sections of the magazine, in addition to ideas for online stories and galleries. Pitches should illustrate a grasp of the science and trends related to these issues, and creativity around packaging.
OM: 250- to 500-word front-of-the-book stories about the latest news and trends in yoga, meditation, wellness, food and nutrition, travel destinations, yoga for athletics, style, and beauty. OM stories offer a unique, timely, and often playful perspective on what yogis need to know about their community and their health. It is news you can use (on and off the mat) to improve your own life, home, and yoga practice.
FEATURES: Yoga Journal runs at least three 1,000- to 2,000-word features an issue and aims for a balanced mix of asana-based, health and wellness, and philosophical- and psychology-driven stories. We also aim for a mix of narrative, investigative reporting, essay, photo-based stories, round-ups, lists, and other highly packaged presentations that prioritize service-oriented information.
REFLECTIONS: Generally a 1,000-word essay about experiencing a yoga or meditation trend, overcoming a challenge, or applying the benefits of yoga and meditation to every day life.
REVIEWS: For upcoming books, music, video, website, apps, and more.
Lynya Floyd, Family Circle Magazine
With 18 million readers, Family Circle is one of the largest magazines in America and the only brand dedicated to moms of tweens and teens. Our writers target this demographic, speaking to the needs of our readers not only as mothers of school-aged children but also as women who tend to be in their 40s and 50s. For our health features, we're always looking for fresh angles, vibrant packaging and a voice that truly resonates with our demographic. We cover themes particular to our reader (such as "Under Pressure: How To Help Your Stressed Out Teen," "Weighty Matters: How To Talk To Your Kids About Obesity" and "What Happened To My Hair?") as well as many of the common health themes other magazines do (heart disease, diabetes, cancer), but always through the lens of our reader. We welcome everything from first person narratives to special reports.
Gideon Gil, The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe accepts pitches from freelancers for its Monday health section. We look for consumer health stories aimed at a general audience that focus on a broad range of health topics – though they should have a strong connection to the Boston area and/or New England and be grounded in medical evidence. We look for pitches that are fresh and timely, not topics and ideas that have been widely reported. Stories can be explanatory or narrative, and topics can include advances in medicine, trends in the way care is delivered, debates about the effectiveness and safety of treatments and preventive care, efforts to cut health care costs or improve access to care. Stories typically run 1,000 to 1,200 words. Pitches should include a description of the story, what makes it new and timely and of broad interest to a Boston-area readership, what sources will be interviewed, and ideas for illustrating the piece with photos and graphics.
Christine Gorman, Scientific American
Gorman will be taking pitches for scientificamerican.com as well as the print editions of Scientific American and Scientific American Mind. Probably the best way to start with any of these publications is to pitch and then once your pitch is accepted, write a short (400 to 800 word) news piece. Scientific American looks for news pieces that capture a trend or interesting change in direction of scientific research (e.g. cell biology, neuroscience, public health, environment, genetics, oncology, immunology). Scientific American Mind likes news stories that have to do with research about the emotions, cognition and perception.
Feel free to pitch Christine Gorman in Denver for any of these publications. But after the conference, you should pitch her only for Scientific American stories. Pitch Robin Lloyd for web stories and Ingrid Wickelgren for Scientific American Mind.
Lena Huang, CURE Magazine
Cancer is a complex disease both scientifically and personally. Our approach is to combine science and humanity to provide cancer education and information to the lay reader. This requires special care taken by our writers in accuracy and tone. Our audience is struggling with a devastating disease. We want to provide information and hope while being careful not to make medical claims that can make a reader’s cancer journey more difficult.
All writers must have medical writing, preferably cancer-related, and interviewing experience. We accept queries, but no unsolicited manuscripts. Please include enough detail in queries to demonstrate that you have resources for the science behind every story. Send all queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pay is approximately $1/word with a 50% kill fee for the magazine and $0.50/word for web-exclusive content. Payment is made on acceptance and all work for CURE must be original. In addition, you must be willing to sell CURE all rights to your work.
Lottie Joiner, The Crisis
The Crisis magazine is the 104-year-old official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The quarterly journal focuses on African American social and political issues, civil rights, history, art and culture.
We are looking for stories that tell us why health disparities exist in the African American community. We would like in-depth, well-reported feature stories that examine critical health issues among Black Americans. We want stories that go beyond the statistics and explore the structural as well as cultural causes of health disparities. It would be great to have pitches with a unique angle on a health issue or stories that have been under-reported or not widely reported by the mainstream press.
Tod Jones, Costco Connection Magazine
The Costco Connection is a general-interest/lifestyle magazine that covers subjects such as: health, small business, arts & entertainment (books, video games, DVD releases), lawn & garden, home (interior decoration, furnishing, small appliances, sundries), automotive, back-to-school, travel & recreation, home electronics, fashion/clothing. The caveat is that every article must have a peg to Costco or to our readership, that is, there is a connection, which could be summarized in a small sidebar, to a Costco product, a Costco service or a Costco member. Editorial is in the form of: cover stories; member profiles; supplier profiles; and the subjects listed previously. When pitching, please keep in mind that we also publish a Canada and U.K. magazine (both bi-monthly). A one-page story typically runs about 650-700 words, which includes any sidebar material. Pay runs about $1/word. Payment on acceptance. Payment for first-print rights and online replica.
Roxanne Khamsi, Nature Medicine
We're looking for news stories that focus on policy changes and business developments that affect biomedicine. Pitches should highlight a news peg from the last few weeks, but the story should be about a broader biomedical trend. Our features focus on hot topics in biomedical research and should follow the narrative of a researcher involved in the field. If you'd like to pitch a feature, please tell us 1) whom you would write about (this could also be a specific team) 2) why the scientist’s research is relevant at this very moment and 3) how the story is exclusive. Please note that we tend to accept feature pitches from journalists who have already written at least a couple of news pieces for the journal, so it's great to start out with news story pitches.
Our core readership is made up of biomedical researchers, along with some patient advocates, doctors, entrepreneurs and policymakers, so think about what might be of interest to them. Please do not pitch stories about individual findings (single-paper studies); we cover these items in our Biomedical Briefing pages and they are written in-house by Nature Medicine staff. Also, please do not pitch stories that have already been written up in the major newspapers or wires. We're looking for fresh ideas that bring something very new to our readers.
Nancy Lapid, editor, Reuters Health
Reuters Health is the consumer and professional medical news division of Thomson Reuters. Reuters Health is seeking freelance medical news reporters who can deliver sharp, insightful, engaging health news articles on tight deadlines, for one of two audiences: consumers, or doctors. The reporter should be able to read and interpret highly technical medical research papers, have a track record of interviewing and quoting medical researchers, and be able to use everyday conversational language to put the findings in context.
Ilima Loomis, Spirituality & Health
Spirituality & Health magazine serves a passionate community of readers who are seeking a life of health and wellbeing, both inside and out. We cover the latest in the world of alternative health, and while our readers are open minded about new therapies, treatments, and practices, they also look to our writers to help separate the cutting-edge from the quackery. Great topics for us include: complementary medicine; nutrition; environmental health; sexuality; and self-help. Examples of recent health stories we've covered include everything from mainstream topics like chronic pain, music therapy, and a yoga program for addicts in recovery; to quirkier subjects like shamanism and bee-sting therapy.
Kate Lowenstein, Prevention Magazine
Prevention is the health magazine of record, with 9 million readers and a 64-year history. We are currently pursuing nuanced, long-form stories on the frontier of health and science research—and the writers to go with such difficult, fascinating topics. If you have a story about new developments in health, medicine or wellness, we want to hear about it. Our March feature, for instance, explored the problem of antibiotics in U.S. farming through the lens of the Dutch industrial-farming system, which has drastically reduced antibiotic use. Our April feature looks at the growing body of research on inflammation in the brain, which may be at the root of some depression and pain.
Anna Miller, Monitor on Psychology
Monitor on Psychology is a monthly magazine distributed in print to more than 140,000 psychologists worldwide and available free online to the public. The magazine covers the latest psychological research in both news briefs and longer features. Recent articles have included the psychology of tears, how incivility undermines our health, the importance of friendships and how psychology research is influencing urban design. gradPSYCH is a quarterly magazine for graduate students in psychology. Recent issues have covered “the imposter syndrome,” balancing school and family life, and the importance of finding – and being – a mentor.
Both magazines also include psychologist profiles. We rely heavily on freelancers who can cut through psychology jargon without patronizing our educated audience. We seek writers with a solid understanding of the field, a sharp ability to synthesize research and patience throughout our lengthy editing process, which includes source review. We assign stories more than we accept pitches, so clips and resumes in addition to ideas are welcome.
Colleen Paretty, WebMD Magazine
WebMD Magazine’s editors seek freelance consumer health writers with experience writing articles for national publications (especially women’s health titles) on healthy living topics including food/nutrition, fitness, skincare/beauty, mental wellness, sleep, parenting, as well as top medical conditions (allergies, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, etc.). Please have detailed experience; the magazine is not the place for new writers trying to break into health writing. Excellent reporting skills, a magazine-feature style, a keen interest in health, and a smart, distinct “voice” are musts. Articles tend to blend solid, attributed medical information with a lifestyle/feature tone. We accept pitches but do much of our assigning out to writers, so your background, clips and ability to fit the magazine’s style are crucial. Please read a copy of WebMD Magazine to get a feel for our style and presentation; a complete PDF of the current issue is online at WebMD.com/magazine and available as a free app you can download in the iTunes store.
Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Inquirer now has an 8-page health section on Sundays, giving us more room for outside submissions. We typically want to see a good news hook, a personal health angle, lots of good evidence, an appreciation of cost and a Philly connection (not usually difficult given the region’s six medical schools, 60 plus hospitals and several hundred pharma and device firms). Proposals can run the gamut. They should answer the question why do we care, and include some photo ideas and whether it has been covered by us and others. Women make up nearly two-thirds of our readers so you may want to take that into account. Pharma and health reform ideas are appreciated. You need to be upfront about any conflicts of interest. Cover stories typically run from 900 to 1,100 words. Personal essays are welcome especially if you are a caregiver and there’s a Philly connection. We are very open to ideas on how we might collaborate online with freelancers on an ongoing basis, perhaps in a blog.
Tyghe Trimble, Men’s Journal
Men's Journal accepts smart, developed freelance pitches that deal with news, innovators, or trends in nutrition, health, grooming, and fitness. MensJournal.com likewise accepts outside pitches, with a focus on breaking news.
Diane Webber, Kaiser Health News
Like many news organizations today, Kaiser Health News has a limited budget for freelance stories, so we have to be exacting about what we can accept. We cover health policy, primarily. (“8 Superfoods That Will Boost Your IQ” is a clicky story, but it isn’t a KHN story). Here are some of the issues and topics that are central to our mission:
• The health law: implementation, Republican resistance, and unintended consequences
• Cost of health care and how to control it
• Access to care, including workforce issues and health disparities
• Employer-sponsored insurance and how it’s changing
Listed like that it sounds fairly dry, but when each of these topics are developed with real people and real world consequences, the stories can be very compelling. We are looking for stories with a strong policy and/or news hook and real world examples and voices. Successful pitches will show some preliminary reporting, so that we know you can deliver that fleshed out, compelling story.
The KHN model is fairly unusual so I’ll take a moment to explain it. We are an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF funds us because it wants to see these issues get rigorous, fair coverage that makes it into the mainstream media. We produce staff and freelance stories and then find homes for them in partner publications, including The Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, McClatchy and many others.
For freelancers, this means that there is a two-pitch process: You pitch us and then we pitch our partners. To accept a freelance story we have to a) think it’s a great story and b) think one of our partners will be interested in it. It’s a high bar – but who said this would be easy?
I look forward to hearing your pitches!