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Health Journalism 2013: Freelance PitchFest

Friday, March 15, 1:40-3:50 p.m.

Attention AHCJ Freelance Writers! Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Boston 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.


  • 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 FOUR appointments during the advance sign-up period (now ended) and an additional THREE 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 13, and will end when registration closes on Thursday, March 14.

  • 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.

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 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.

  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 say you'll 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.

Sign up for appointments

The advance sign-up period has ended. On-site sign ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, and will end when registration closes on Thursday, March 14.

Sarah Alger, Time Inc. Content Solutions

Whereas journals publish data and newsstand magazines broadcast the benefits of the latest breakthroughs, Proto follows a different path. It serves as a forum in which medical professionals can reflect on their work and learn about the latest developments in other specialties, while lay readers—patients, business leaders, politicians and academics—can glimpse the progress at the frontiers of medical science and ponder how this will eventually affect their worlds. The quarterly magazine reaches 75,000 print readers and more online (at and on iPad. Though the magazine is sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital, Proto covers exciting research regardless of where it’s happening.

Each quarter we meet with the magazine’s editorial board; in the weeks leading up to the meeting, we’re seeking pitches in earnest.

Proto stories fall into one (or sometimes more than one) of these four categories: basic research, clinical research, technology and policy. We’re always seeking feature ideas in these categories. We don’t do feature-length profiles of people or companies. Rather, we examine big ideas and talk to the people examining them.

Valarie Basheda, director of editorial content, WebMD

Basheda is looking for someone who has a passion for writing health content in clear, conversational language. Health information can often seem confusing and contradictory, and our goal is to provide readers the information and context they need to understand why it matters.

Timothy H. Cole, editorial director, Belvoir Media Group - Harvard Health Publications

Our audience is comprised primarily of older Americans with a health condition or concern. The key to helping this reader is to provide action steps they can take, questions they should ask, things they should know, in order to relieve their health worries. We believe having solid information makes people feel better. You've got solid credits in the areas of cardio, nutrition, cognitive, osteo, pain, drugs, interventions, alternatives or devices. Pitch me on well-researched breaking news in your area of expertise that will help people decide "What They Can Do..."

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 Web sites, 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.
• Queries and finished articles on medicine and health should be sent by e-mail to Mike Mason at On other science topics, to David Corcoran at
• We also look at personal essays, on spec only, for the Health page feature Cases. These are first-person articles of 800 words or so about an encounter with the medical system. Many examples can be found online.

Tim De Chant, NOVA

NOVA is known for tackling big stories, and that's what I'm looking for in a pitch. I commission mostly features, 1,500-2,000 words long, that address a weighty science topic with in-depth reporting and a good narrative arc. No "new study" stories, please, unless they offer a way to address a bigger picture. Pitches can have a news peg, but don't necessarily require one. If the timing is right, we'll run the story. To give you some idea of the scope of NOVA's features, I've commissioned pieces on how gene patents are affecting the adoption of personalized medicine, the biogeography of the kitchen microbiome, and the role of psychology in our acceptance of augmented reality. NOVA's feature section is brand new, and I'm looking for great writers to fill it with compelling stories.

Elie Dolgin, Nature Medicine

The news stories that appear in Nature Medicine focus on policy changes and business developments that affect biomedicine. 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. As a monthly publication, we have to ensure that our ideas are fresh and value-added. As such, please do not pitch stories that have already been written up in the major newspapers or wires. Instead, think about original ‘synthesis stories’ that capture a trend and connect the dots of recent developments in drug development. Please do not pitch stories about individual findings (single-paper studies). Ideal pitches are around 100-200 words long and describe the angle you have in mind.

Denise Fulton, IMNG Medical Media

IMNG Medical Media provides medical news coverage tailored to the needs and interests of practicing physicians across 18 specialties. We strives to provide news that is fair, balanced and accurate. We adhere to policies of fact verification and disclosures of interest by sources quoted in our articles. To meet the news needs of our physician readers, we want to work with freelance health journalists on a range of products. Our editorial strength -- our bread and butter -- is reporting news from medical research meetings around the globe. But we also seek freelancers to cover breaking news developments out of federal agencies, to report in-depth features tailored to specific medical specialists, to write news stories based on published medical research, and to provide coverage for show daily newspapers at medical meetings. To gain a better understanding our editorial operations, please visit or; click on the digital edition in the upper right corner of the home page to view our print publications. To learn more about our group, please visit

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. 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.

Peggy Girshman, Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news site which partners with major news organizations, including The Washington Post, USA Today, McClatchy Newspapers, NPR, MSNBC and some magazines. We’re looking for freelance stories with strong narratives about health policy and politics, including implementation of the health law on the federal and state level, Medicare, Medicaid, the uninsured, the insurance and health care industries, the delivery of care, comparative effectiveness, health disparities. While we are interested in stories with a consumer angle, we don’t publish strictly medical stories, new treatments, etc.

Christine Gorman, Scientific American

Lottie Joiner, The Crisis

The Crisis magazine is the 103-year-old official publication of the NAACP. 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, U.S. Costco Connection

The Costco Connection is a general interest magazine published monthly in the U.S., and mailed each month to 8.6 million Costco members. The Connection also publishes a Canada bi-monthly magazine (English and French—2.4 million circulation; and a UK bi-monthly, with 325,000 circulation). Current and past issues of the magazine are also available online ( All content must have some connection to Costco (products, services, members or suppliers). Topics covered include: Small business, health, travel, home and garden, furniture, food, automotive, A&E (books, DVDs and some CD coverage). Freelancers are recommended to look at issues online  to get a sense of style, content and length. Content is often repurposed for the various other magazines.

Kathy LaTour, CURE Magazine

What we look for in writers:
Cancer is a complex disease both scientifically and personally. Our approach is to provide scientifically based information for 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 them information and hope while being careful not to make medical claims that can make their own 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 Pay is approximately $1/word with a 50% kill fee for the magazine, books and special projects. Web-exclusive content is paid at approximately $0.50/word. Payment is made on acceptance and all work for CURE must be original.

Brendan Maher, Nature

Nature is looking for BIG stories about research, scientists and the intersection of science, policy and society. Nature's news features are timely, authoritative stories reported and written by journalists. Exhaustively researched and often with fluid narrative, the ideal Nature feature will challenge conventions and have the potential to impact the scientific community. We welcome well thought-out pitches as well as preliminary ideas.

Anna Miller, Monitor on Psychology and gradPSYCH magazines

Monitor on Psychology is a monthly magazine distributed in print to 137,000 American psychologists and available free online to the public. The magazine covers the latest psychological research in both news briefs and longer features on such issues as the psychology of embarrassment, sexual hookup culture and why we need friends. gradPSYCH is a quarterly magazine for graduate students in psychology covering such topics as why you need sleep in grad school or how to talk to a tough advisor. All stories must be backed by psychology research. Both magazines 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. We assign stories more than we accept pitches, so please bring clips and/or a resume in addition to ideas.

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: food/nutrition, fitness, skincare/beauty, mental wellness, relationships, and parenting, as well as top medical conditions (allergies, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, sleep, 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. Our 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 proven ability to fit the magazine’s style are crucial. Please read a copy of WebMD Magazine to get a feel for it; a complete pdf of the current issue is online at

Ron Shinkman, Payers & Providers

Payers & Providers is seeking articles on healthcare business issues centered in California and the Midwest. The publication is particularly interested in investigative pieces that shed a new angle on compensation, regulatory issues, or unique business issues confronting insurers, hospitals, and other major players in the healthcare landscape.

Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer

We offer limited but growing opportunities for freelance. The Inquirer’s Health & Science section on Mondays may soon move to Sundays, giving us more room for outside submissions. We also use freelance in some special, one-day sections that we publish through the year focusing on heart, cancer, diabetes and other areas. 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 have hired two part-time reporters to blog for us in the last year and those opportunities are likely to grow. We are very open to ideas on how we might collaborate online with freelancers on an ongoing basis, perhaps in a blog.

Serena Stockwell, Oncology Times

Oncology Times is a twice-monthly newspaper for the cancer care team, with print, online, and iPad editions. New information is also published throughout the day on the website. We are looking for writers who know the publication and the audience; can write with style, flair, and enthusiasm; have story ideas we haven’t thought of ourselves; are adept at social media; and can provide audio and video enhancements. We are also open to ideas for new blogs.

Amber Taufen, MGMA Connexion

MGMA-ACMPE is the premier association for professional administrators and leaders of medical group practices. MGMA Connexion magazine, published ten times each year (with two editorial supplements planned for 2013), is the flagship publication of MGMA-ACMPE; the glossy magazine offers feature stories, advocacy analysis, news and practical tips for group practice managers. Articles about financial management, business operations, human resource management, patient care systems, organizational governance, risk management, quality management and information management are welcome, as are case studies of innovative group-practice initiatives and similar articles.

Joy Taylor, Health Callings

I'm looking for writers who can address healthcare workforce issues and careers in healthcare. Our audience is primarily nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharm workers, allied health, rehab therapy....we speak to the unemployed (new grads and experienced workers seeking job change) and also to employed healthcare workers who are looking for information on how to advance their career (certifications, specialties, CEUs, etc). Also, I plan to run more articles on resume writing, cover letter samples, and interviewing. If you've got a human resource background AND/OR healthcare experience, let's talk! Articles run about 400 words, and pay runs about .50 per word.

Tyghe Trimble, Men's Journal

The best pitches are newsworthy, detailed, and specifically crafted for the publication. Do not pitch a topic or person, or submit a completed story. And always read the magazine.

Doug Whiteman,

Our mission is to inform the consumer, so we are interested in consumer-focused stories on the Affordable Care Act and health insurance that provide useful information and go beyond run-of-the-mill.