Why freelancers should attend Health Journalism 2023

Photo by Paola RodriguezEditors attentively listen to freelancers pitch their ideas.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the new time and date for PitchFest signups.

Come to Health Journalism 2023 in St. Louis to network with fellow freelancers, generate more story ideas than you can handle, pitch a range of top-notch editors and learn about the latest developments in health from more than 50 expert panels. The deadline for registering for the conference is February 17, 2023. We hope to see the largest contingent of freelancers ever. And don’t forget to apply for one of the many fellowships available to help defray the costs of attending. 

PitchFest

PitchFest is one of the most popular events among freelancers, scheduled for the afternoon of March 10. You will have 10 minutes per editor to pitch your story idea.  

PitchFest sign up begins Feb. 8 at noon CT/1:40 p.m. EST. So far, we have lined up participating editors from 20 publications, including Kaiser Health News, Undark, Scientific American and more.

Panels

AHCJ’s freelance committee has worked hard to create six panels of special interest to independent journalists. Check the program for exact days and times.

This year, conference organizers have scheduled most of the freelance panels for Thursday, starting first thing in the morning and running through the afternoon. We strongly suggest arriving at the conference on Wednesday evening, if possible.

Here is a brief rundown.

  • The freelancer’s survival guide: How to thrive when reporting doesn’t cover the bills. What are your options when you’re struggling to make it with journalism gigs, but you aren’t interested in corporate work? Learn how to boost your journalism output and land fulfilling side hustles in editing, teaching, speaking, and non-profit work — all while avoiding conflicts of interest. 
  • Fight back: Freelancer protection against legal threats. In recent years, bills like California’s AB 5 and now potential impending changes to the federal definition of “independent contractor” have threatened the livelihoods of independent journalists. Meet the freelancers who have successfully killed anti-freelancer legislation in statehouses from coast to coast. You’ll also hear from a labor lawyer about how potential state and federal laws can affect freelancers and how you can protect yourself.
  • How to write a book: Transform your idea into a book proposal and land a top agent. Do you want to write a book, but don’t know where to begin? A top agent and successful medical/science authors will give you the insights you need to turn a fledgling idea into a book proposal that will wow literary agents and set you on the path to publish. Among the topics we’ll cover: What goes into a book proposal? What are common mistakes that first-time authors make? And what’s the best way to find the right agent? 
  • PitchFest Practice and Story Coaching. If you are new to Pitchfest or just want feedback on your ideas, come and test your pitches with experienced writers and editors. We’ll also have an editor or two on hand to help you develop your longform story ideas.
  • The writer-editor relationship: Smoothing the way from pitch to publication. Freelance writers have the challenging task of constantly building new relationships with editors they have never met (or even spoken to). In this panel, experienced writers and editors will discuss common issues that arise throughout the process and ways to navigate them — from email etiquette to scope creep. Bring your questions.
  • Long-time listener, first-time freelancer: How to land audio gigs. There is a world of audio opportunities available to print and online journalists, whether you want to learn new skills for on-air work or use existing journalism chops for researching or fact-checking. Gigs are available at local public radio stations, (inter)national networks, podcasting companies, and more. Learn what it takes from some of the most experienced editors, producers and reporters in the business.

And on Sunday, don’t miss a special panel on generating ideas: 

  • Become an idea machine and make bank. Do you have trouble developing ideas for articles, essays, or books? Or does a flood of ideas leave you reeling? This workshop explores techniques for unearthing the best ideas, how to improve them, ways to safely store them and how to judge their merits. We’ll use exercises to focus on developing stories that resonate with you and your audience. The highlight of the workshop is the unveiling of a formula that will tap into your personal criteria to tell you which idea to pursue next.

This panel has been a hit at other writers’ conferences, so try to stay through Sunday.

Mentorship breakfast

We have something new scheduled for this year’s conference: a mentorship breakfast to be held on Friday, March 10 from 7:15-8:30 a.m.

Are you an early-career journalist looking for career advice or a newsroom leader in need of some tips from a seasoned professional? Are you an experienced journalist, editor or manager who wants to share your knowledge and expertise? 

AHCJ will match mentors with mentees and arrange for them to meet at the breakfast. Whichever category you fall into, sign up before the February 22 deadline. Space is limited.

See you in St. Louis!

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