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Health Journalism 2017: Freelance PitchFest

Friday, April 21, 1:40-3:50 p.m.

Betsy Agnvall, left, meets with freelancer Deborah Crowe at the 2016 Freelance PitchFest.
Betsy Agnvall, left, meets with freelancer Deborah Crowe at the 2016 PitchFest.
(Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ)

Important dates

March 7, noon CT
Must be registered for the conference to participate in online signups

March 14, 10 a.m. CT
Advance online signups open

March 28, noon CT
Advance online signups close

March 31, noon CT
Webcast: "Mastering the art of the pitch"

April 19, 3 p.m. ET
On-site signups open

April 20, 3 p.m. ET
On-site signups close

Attention independent journalists! Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Orlando 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, business cards, 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 webcastAHCJ will host a webcaston March 31 especially for independent journalists who are planning to take part in the Freelance PitchFest at Health Journalism 2017. Our panel of editors will offer 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 "Packaging the perfect pitch," a webcast with two top editors and an experienced freelancer that will help you prepare for the PitchFest.

IMPORTANT:

  • You must be an AHCJ member, in the "professional" category and be registered for the conference no later than noon CT on  Tuesday, March 7, 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 online sign-up period (March 14-28). While at the conference, you may sign up for TWO more appointments if slots are available. If you miss the online sign-up period, you may sign up for three appointments at the conference if slots are available. On-site sign ups will begin on April 19 at 3 p.m. and close on April 20 at 3 p.m.

  • If you sign up online, you will NOT be able to make a change after the online sign-up period ends. You may add two more appointments onsite but you may NOT change an existing appointment. So please take a look at the conference agenda to see if a panel you want to attend conflicts with the appointment time before you sign up.

  • 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Prepare carefully. We've posted blurbs from editors describing what they want so read those to customize your pitch to 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.

  3. Arrive in plenty of time. We will run on time and we will run like clockwork. If you are late, you forfeit your pitch.

  4. 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 tell him or her that you will follow up with an email.

  5. 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.

» How to make appointments

A link to sign up will appear on this page beginning at 10 a.m. CT on March 14 until noon CT on March 28. On-site sign ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on April 19, and will end on April 20 at 3 p.m.

Participating editors:

Betsy Agnvall, editor, Staying Sharp

Staying Sharp is a “holistic approach to brain health, powered by science and personalized to fit your life.” It is a new platform for AARP that includes both free articles and a paid membership that allows subscribers to take a brain health assessment and participate in tailored activities. Articles aim at readers 45 years and older who are interested in keeping their brain sharp as they age. This is a platform for people who do not have memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease, but who want to harness the latest solid scientific research to keep their memory sharp and thinking focused. The articles are divided into five pillars of brain health: Nourish, Relax, Connect, Discover and Move. Each story connects current research to one of the pillars. Stories do not have to base on a single study. Articles average 550 words with a range of 350-700; plus, head/deck suggestion, pull-quote idea, link to a study and fact check material. The tone of these articles should be conversational, engaging and quotable and include two sources—more for longer articles — and at least one study cited.

Aurora Aguilar, managing editor, Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare, the industry's leading source of news and information is always looking for enterprising story ideas from veteran reporters. We cover the financial and regulatory impact of healthcare policy, politics and programs. Stories online, in the digital and print version of the magazine, and through eBooks or other related materials. Pitches need to be organize with a focus statement, possible sources, and suggested lede or nutgraf. Optimal story lengths are between 400-1500 words. Reporters expect to work with Modern Healthcare's art and data units to conceptualize package with photos and graphics.  

Jennifer Bleyer, senior editor, Psychology Today

We are a bimonthly magazine with an estimated readership of 500,000, along with a website that attracts about five million visitors per month. All of our magazine content is published online, and we have a robust social media following where our material is promoted. I’m particularly interested in deeply reported stories on new directions in treating mental health; ways in which health science is applied to pressing social issues; emerging issues in bioethics; and rich narratives that capture the human dimension of medical and psychological research. Developing midsection stories on mind-body health, the science of interpersonal relationships, as well as a personal memoir in every issue. I am always looking for pitches, and interested in meeting writers with great reporting chops to whom I can assign stories (about half of what I assign is conceived in-house and about half comes through pitches.) I work on midsection (1,200-1,500 word stories) and features (3,000-4,000 words) that address a broad range of topics pertaining to health and human behavior.

Jonathan Block, senior editor, MedShadow

MedShadow is a nonprofit health and medical information and advocacy site. Our mission is to educate consumers about the risks and benefits of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as supplements. We are looking for feature pieces (around 800 words) on topics that are relevant to our readers on new or breaking research. Feature stories presume that the reader has basic knowledge about a medical condition (or can find that info elsewhere), and come to us to learn more about drug side effects and long-term effects. We take no advertising from pharma or medical device companies. Story ideas can be in multiple formats – we are open to feature ideas, slideshows, blog posts, etc.

Erin Boyle, senior editor, HealthCentral.com

HealthCental.com is a health and wellness website for people navigating chronic conditions. We offer personal stories with expert medical advice, plus real community for real patients. We are looking for strong writers with results from studies and multisource interviews in the chronic condition space. Accuracy is vital. So is an awareness of what people with chronic conditions know about their conditions. Many of our readers are experts in their fields, so we need writers who can share information with that understanding. “If your mom had this condition, what would you tell her about this study?” is how we ask writers to approach clinical writing for our site.

We need pitches in clinical areas in the following topics: sexual health, cancer, caregiving, chronic pain, allergies, autoimmune diseases, thyroid issues, skin care, and others.

If you have a chronic condition and are comfortable writing about it in a personal essay, we would love to hear your story, too. If not, that is not a requirement for writing for us.

Sue Byrne, executive editor, HealthAfter50.com

HealthAfter50, a publication of Remedy Health Media, seeks freelance consumer health writers for our monthly newsletter, annual white papers, and website. Our articles feature the most current research, simply explained, and are empathetic and upbeat. Articles should help readers to be proactive about their health care. Looking for feature-length articles as well as short news items and text for slideshows. Experience writing articles geared to baby boomers is helpful. You will need to know how to comb through a medical study, get compelling quotes from experts, and write in a lively feature style. Articles are fact-checked and doctor reviewed, so you will have to provide sourcing. Topics include food and nutrition, fitness, sexual health, medications and supplements, and health care (including costs and insurance). We also cover conditions such as arthritis, back pain, cancer, digestive disorders, heart disease, memory loss, menopause, mental health, osteoporosis, prostate disorders, respiratory disorders, and vision. For examples of what we are seeking and a more complete list, see HealthAfter50.com, which launched in June of 2016. Please provide background and clips.

David Corcoran, senior editor, Undark

Undark, an independent online magazine published by the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, is devoted to exploring the intersection of science and society. True to its name — that of a century-old radium paint that seemed wondrous but later turned out to be deadly — Undark looks at science not as a “gee whiz” phenomenon but as a frequently contentious and sometimes troubling byproduct of human culture. We consider pitches for everything from 250-word blog posts about breaking news to book reviews to long-form narrative articles that explore the social implications of health and science news. Submission guidelines can be found here.

Dina Fine-Maron, editor, Scientific American

We are looking for cutting-edge medical and science stories that delight. These would be fascinating, evidence-based stories that people will want to talk about over the dinner table. We accept freelance pitches for short stories for the front of the magazine (Advances), news analysis stories for our digital edition, and features between 1,600-3,000 words. Our audience is typically a layperson, science-interested readership. A good rule of thumb is a physicist should be able to understand one of our medical stories, but so should a geologist or a middle school science teacher. The reporter should be familiar with Scientific American and capable of delivering on well-explained, highly technical research. Our writers have a proven record of accomplishment of reporting thoroughly, accurately and responsibly. You must deliver tight, innovative copy with a strong narrative. Stories should tie together new scientific findings in an interesting way and/or display new research that will change our understanding of a certain medical condition, how to treat it or settle longstanding questions.

Gideon Gil, managing editor, Stat

Stat is a national online publication focused on telling compelling stories about health, medicine, scientific discovery and drug development. We cover the whole arc of life sciences and health care, from research in academic and biotech labs through clinical trials to patient care, public health, and the policy debates in Washington and state capitals. Our articles and multimedia are authoritative and deeply reported, so that they are credible to the professionals who work in these fields, while being accessible and engaging to general consumers. 

We ask freelancers to find and bring us original and timely enterprise stories about people, issues, ideas, companies, and treatments. We want pieces that explore problems as well as solutions, which captivate and even provoke. These can include profiles, trend stories, news features, narratives, and investigative stories. We especially look for stories outside major media markets. We have reporters in Boston, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Cleveland, so we are eager to get pitches from elsewhere that may be local stories but have national relevance. We are also looking for stories for the Stat Plus subscriber portion of our site, which focuses on the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. We are interested in pieces examining drug development and challenges in bringing a potential drug through clinical trials and FDA approval, as well as pricing and competitive pressures and how the process is changing, with bioinformatics and genomics. Profiles of company leaders with insights on the industry and its direction are also welcome. Pitches should include a succinct description of the idea and why it is important and timely, as well as a summary of what, if anything, has been written about the topic by other media. We would also like to know how you plan to go about reporting the story — who will you be interviewing and what places you intend to visit. Finally, we would like to see examples of your previous work and a resume. Length and pay will be determined based on the specific story.

Emily Gurnon, senior content editor, health and caregiving, PBS Next Avenue

I am eager to see ideas that address concerns or current topics of interest to our age 50 readership. Be as specific as possible. For instance, instead of “I’d like to write a story about diabetes,” you might say, “I’d like to write a story about the latest research on reversing diabetes.” My areas are health and caregiving. You will need to write to our other editors if you have ideas in other areas. Please look at our website, before contacting our editors. Search to see if we have already covered your idea within the last year or two. Be relatively brief; two or three paragraphs should do it. If I do not know you, please give me a link to your website or links to stories you have published because I will need to see your work before I accept your pitch. Thanks!

Tod Jones, managing editor, U.S., Costco Connection

The Costco Connection is a general interest, lifestyle magazine that covers topics such as small business, travel and recreation, health, fashion/clothing, electronics, books, films, automotive, home and garden. All topics must have a "Costco connection" that can be explained in a sidebar, such as a product or service that Costco offers, or the connection could be a profile of a Costco member or Costco supplier. Articles average about 700 words per page. Most article assignments are one to two pages. Pay is typically $1/word. Writers wanting to familiarize themselves with the magazine can go to Costco.com and click on "current issue" at the bottom of the home page to view current and archived issues of the magazine. This will provide a good sense of content, style, article length, etc.

Katherine Lagomarsino, managing editor, Genome

Genome is the first consumer magazine focused on personalized medicine and genomics. Our approach is to provide scientifically based information for the lay reader. Genomics and personalized medicine are complex topics, and we require that our writers have scientific or medical writing experience, and the ability to translate complicated information to a consumer audience. We also include the human voice of patients in our articles, so writers should have experience interviewing patients, as well as researchers and physicians. Accuracy is essential to us, so we ask our writers to confirm all facts with sourcing provided either in a comment field or at the end of the article. We also require writers to obtain interview releases from all patients. All work for Genome must be original. Writers must be willing to sell Genome all rights to their work.

Lindsay Lyon, senior editor, U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News is known for its unique brand of news-you-can-use journalism. That is especially true in our Consumer Advice health section, where our stories strive to help readers make informed decisions for both themselves and their families. Straight study stories and hard news pieces are not typically part of our Consumer Advice wheelhouse. Instead, fresh evergreen (and bonus: seasonal) content is what we are after, often using new findings as a springboard for diving deeper into the implications of an issue. Our health coverage is geared toward two primary areas:

Wellness (diet and nutrition; fitness, parenting and pregnancy; mental health and happiness; aging and longevity; health tech; and general well-being) and patient advice (instructive pieces for people living with or recovering from a specific condition, such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s). Great story pitches include a working headline along with a paragraph outlining the story and potential advice components. Pieces are generally 700-1,100 words. They incorporate solid research and expert interviews, and can include human-interest anecdotes. Our tone is conversational and authoritative.

Amanda Moon, director, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux book imprint

Amanda Moon acquires, edits, and publishes general interest non-fiction trade books focusing on medicine, health, science, nature, psychology, parenting, technology, and related areas. She publishes narrative non-fiction in these areas as well. Sometimes her books cross many of these categories at once. Drawn to idea-driven and argument-driven non-fiction, authors who have something counterintuitive and fresh to say, and original research. She publishes journalists, scientists, academics, and experts in their field. An initial pitch should be in the form of a brief email highlighting the basic idea of the book. She usually works with agents, but does accept proposals directly from authors. 

Peggy Peck, vice president and editor-in-chief, MedPage Today

MedPage Today’s target audience includes all varieties of healthcare professionals, but the focus remains physicians, nurses, and physician assistants. We see original content that can provide useful information for practicing clinicians, regardless of whether that information is based on clinical research, clinical practice, medical education, payment or policy issues, but what really rings our chimes is a good story that pulls the user in and holds his or her attention.

Scott G. Phillips, editor-in-chief, Rural Health Quarterly

Rural Health Quarterly (RHQ) is a national print and online rural health news magazine published by the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. RHQ explores rural health care policy, research, education and technology. The readership for RHQ includes rural health care practitioners, researchers, and educators as well as local, state and national policy makers. RHQ accepts freelance pitches for short articles and well-developed features (1,000-3,000 words) that cover timely and relevant rural health care topics. RHQ stories should help readers understand the complex and often unique health care challenges faced by rural America. We prefer to receive a query describing the proposed article, including its title, sources, approximate length, and the most important points it will cover. It's also an excellent idea to send us the first paragraph to help get us excited about your proposal.

Emily Silber, assistant editor, Proto

Proto is going into its 12th year of publishing stories about the frontiers of medicine. We aim for thoughtful pieces with innovative research and its implications, and pieces about where that world intersects with policy and the arts. Our readers are primarily in the medical profession. While we address topics at a moderate level, we aim for language that lay readers can understand. We are sometimes looking for feature-length ideas (2,000 to 3,000 words) from very established writers, but more often are looking for interview topics (600-800 words), meaty infographic ideas, stories from the history of medicine (600-800 words) and short pieces at web length (600-800 words) that fall under our topic umbrella. We also occasionally publish first-person encounters with the health care system. A background in research and dispatches from academic conferences are both strongly encouraged.

Ingrid Strauch, senior editor, Everyday Health

Everyday Health is in the business of helping people make informed decisions about their health. Our content is empowering, inspiring, engaging and personal. Everyday Health balances both the patient and expert points of view to provide well-rounded content that describes the best way to live with a condition. Our content is factual and actionable. With each piece of content, Everyday Health includes easy-to-read key findings, tips, and strategies to help readers take steps forward in their own health journey. Our readers know they will leave with great takeaways, they want to share, and they want to come back for more. Our editorial team is especially seeking fresh ideas in the following areas: crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Psoriasis; psoriatic Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and ulcerative colitis. We are seeking 700- to 800-word articles that address the challenges of living with these conditions, from diagnosis to treatment including symptom management. Writers should provide the necessary background, while including patient quotes and input from respected authorities in the field.

Blythe Terrell, senior editor for science and health, FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight is a data-driven website that applies an empirical lens to the news. Although our bread and butter verticals are politics and sports, we’re ramping up our policy coverage post-election. One of our key focus areas is health care, and we’ve been covering the ACA and Republicans’ plans for repeal. I’m interested in data-driven pitches related to the ACA, as well as health care and health policy more generally. I’d be happy to talk to reporters about other science or health pitches too.

Peter Wehrwein, editor, Managed Care

Managed Care covers the delivery, cost and insurance coverage of American health care. The core readers are medical directors, executives of health plans; with an increasing financial risk, our readership now includes both hospitals and physicians. The readers are knowledgeable, so they do not need basic explanations of bundled payments, ACOs, and the like. The stories on those and other topics need to dig down to the next level of analysis and insight. A strong regional piece with wider implications will work, but the magazine has a national readership. The 2017 editorial calendar is on the website; pitches that fit the theme of a future issue will receive a warm welcome. Several writers have gotten regular work from Managed Care after pitching at the last couple of AHCJ PitchFests. Experience has shown that the particular pitch is less important than evidence that you are ready to dive into this area of health care and come out with a good story.

Ingrid Wickelgren, managing editor, Spectrum

Spectrum is a site covering the latest in autism research. Our primary audience is scientists, but we try to make our articles accessible to everyone, and syndicate too many mainstream outlets, including The Atlantic, Slate, Scientific American and The Guardian. We run news, profiles, evergreen stories as well as feature-length narratives. We are interested in pitches that go beyond the latest autism study to explore surprising trends and lingering controversies in the field. For instance, we probably know about the latest machine-learning paper, but an article exploring a new direction in machine learning in autism research would get our attention. For pitches, besides telling us about the scientist's biggest contributions to the field, make the profile interesting as a person. Our features delve into intriguing or controversial aspects of autism research, and driven by a strong narrative. Pitches should include the central thesis and an outline, the narrative frame and some of the sources you would consult.