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Health Journalism 2016: Freelance PitchFest

Friday, April 8, 1:40-3:50 p.m.

Attention independent journalists! Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Cleveland 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 hosted a webcast on March 10 especially for independent journalists who are planning to take part in the Freelance PitchFest at Health Journalism 2016. 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 "Tips for pitching to top publications," a webcast with three top editors and an experienced freelancer that will help you prepare for the PitchFest.


  • You must be an AHCJ member, in the "professional" category and be registered for the conference no later than noon CT on  Friday, March 11, 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 15-28). 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 6 at 3 p.m. and close on April 7 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 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.

» How to make appointments

A link to sign up will appear on this page beginning at 10 a.m. CT on March 15 until noon CT on March 28. On-site sign ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on April 6, and will end on April 7 at 3 p.m.


Elizabeth "Betsy" Agnvall, features editor, health, AARP Media

AARP Media servers 37 million Americans over age 50 with online and print articles, as well as videos and social media. The print articles are published in the AARP Bulletin (monthly) and AARP The Magazine (bi-monthly). We frequently use freelance writers for articles covering all aspects of health of our members. Our articles tend to be reader-focused and aspirational, answering the question: "What can I do about this?" We're looking for fresh, surprising takes on all kinds of health issues that affect our readers-including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, nutrition and brain health. Health affairs articles cover the gauntlet from Medicare to drug pricing. We have special sections of the website,, devoted to hearing health, brain health and caregiving. We are also launching a new Staying Sharp membership that will include short (300-400 word), research-based articles designed to help readers keep memory and thinking skills sharp as they age. Staying Sharp articles will also include interesting or quirky aspects of brain health that are rarely covered in other pubs, i.e. What is brain freeze? Look carefully at the site before crafting a pitch. Use our search engine as well as Google. Click around within the different tabs on health to see what's currently being promoted. (Use the "hamburger" menu button to the left of the AARP logo at the top of the page.) We promote almost all of our print pieces online, so this will give you a good overview. Blogs are mainly covered in-house and by regular bloggers. We usually assign first-time writers online pieces before moving to print, so we recommend pitching an article, slideshow or quiz to run online. Pieces are edited by several editors and go through a rigorous fact-check, so be prepared for a lengthy editing process. A solid pitch will include not only your idea but also examples of the types of studies/sources you will use.

Aurora Aguilar, news editor, Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare is the healthcare industry's leading source of business and policy news, research and information. We report on important healthcare events and trends, as they happen, through our weekly print magazine, website, e-newsletters, mobile products and events. MH also leads the market in editorial excellence and is honored to receive awards from ASBPE, ASHPE American Business Media, Trade Association and Business Publications International and the Association of Health Care Journalists, affirming our status as the best source for healthcare business and policy news, research and information. We seek seasoned, skilled freelancer journalists with no conflicts of interest who can, on deadline, deliver accurate, insightful, critical, fair, and balanced news and feature stories about healthcare-related businesses, policies and programs. Keep in mind that our readers primarily are people in the healthcare industry and policymakers, not consumers. The story ideas you pitch should have a strong news peg and offer broader context. For example, a news item might be about the impact of a new federal payment rule, the reasons why a new journal article is important to providers and payers, or how hospital consolidation is affecting a specific market. Your pitches should include a central thesis, identify sources and set a reasonable deadline. We look for snappy, jargon-free copy that pulls readers in with good storytelling, and for writers to come up with strong ideas for art and chart ideas. Writers should expect rigorous editing, including requests for additional reporting and rewriting. While we are a publication covering national issues, we also are interested in significant developments affecting local markets that may have broader resonance. We publish news stories of about 750 words as well as long-form features that can run up to 2,000 words. We pay based on the amount of time and difficulty involved in the assignment, and also on previous performance writing for Modern Healthcare, up to $.75 to $1.00 a word. Prior professional journalistic experience writing about healthcare is desirable but not essential.

Jessica Bylander, senior editor, Health Affairs

Health Affairs explores questions of health, health care, and health policy. We welcome pitches from writers interested in various sections of the journal:

  1. Entry Point features are long-form news analyses on timely and often underreported topics in health policy, typically 2,000-3,000 words.

  2. Health Policy Briefs are 2,500-word primers on a discrete and timely topic in health policy (such as The Sunshine Act or FDA’s Role in Regulating E-Cigarettes) aimed at non-expert readers.

  3. Narrative Matters pieces are first-person essays about people’s encounters with the health care system. 

Health Affairs publishes both peer-reviewed academic research and journalistic content. Our goal is to serve as a high-level, nonpartisan forum to promote analysis and discussion on improving health and health care, and to address such issues as cost, quality, and access. The journal reaches a broad audience that includes government and health industry leaders; health care advocates; scholars of health, health care and health policy; and others concerned with health and health care issues in the United States and worldwide.

Sue Byrne, executive editor, with Scientific American

Remedy Health Media’s editors seek freelance consumer health writers to help launch new site. Looking for those with experience writing articles for national publications on topics including food and nutrition, fitness, sexual health, medications and supplements, health care (including costs and insurance), and conditions, especially menopause. Experience writing articles geared to Baby Boomers is helpful. You’ll know how to comb through a medical study, get compelling quotes from experts, and write in a lively feature style. For examples of what we’re seeking, see our sister site, Most of our articles are by assignment, though we do accept pitches. Please provide background and clips.

Lynya Floyd, health director, Family Circle

With 18 million readers, Family Circle is one of the largest magazines in America and the only brand with parenting content 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 30s, 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 "How I Got My Kid To Be Healthy" and "I Kept My Cancer A Secret") as well as many of the common health themes other magazines do ("6 Reasons You Can't Drop The Weight," "Be Your Own Life Coach," "5 Things You Didn't Know About Autism"). All of this is done through the lens of our reader. We welcome everything from first-person narratives to list-y one-pagers to lengthy special reports.

Denise Fulton, executive editor, Frontline Medical News

Frontline Medical News covers medical research news, health policy, and the business of medicine for physicians across most medical specialties. We seek to work with news reporters who can absorb complex scientific and medical information, then translate it into engaging and easy-to-read news stories that reach our readers on the professional level. Medical meeting coverage, Washington policy reporting, features and news stories – we seek freelancers is each of these areas. Our titles include Internal Medicine News, Family Practice News, Ob.Gyn. News, Pediatric News, Dermatology News, Clinical Psychiatry News, Rheumatology News, Cardiology News, The Oncology Report, Clinical Endocrinology News, Clinical Neurology News, Hematology News, Hospitalist News,, ACS Surgery News, CHEST Physicians, GI & Hepatology News, Thoracic Surgery News and Vascular Specialist.

Lena Huang, editorial director, Genome

Genome is the first consumer magazine focused on personalized medicine and genomics. We cover a range of topics, from genetic research and technology to ethical and psychosocial issues. Our approach is to provide scientifically based information for the lay reader. We require our writers to 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. All work for Genome must be original. Writers must be willing to sell Genome all rights to their work. If you are interested, please send your resume and at least three relevant writing clips to

Tod Jones, managing editor, Costco Connection

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). Issues of the magazine are 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 and DVDs). Freelancers are recommended to look at issues online  to get a sense of style, content and length. Content is often repurposed for the other magazines.

Rich Kirkner, contributing editor, Healthegy News

Healthegy News produces weekly e-newsletters targeting thought leaders and investors in medical innovation: Breaking Health in the digital health space; Medtech Talk featuring the top innovators, investors and executives in medical technology; and Eye On Innovation focusing on biotech and innovation in ophthalmology. We’re looking for writers who can produce breaking business and medical news with angles unique to our target audiences and do it on short turnaround. Familiarity with medical technology and biotech is a plus. Pieces can range from 300-1,000 words. Occasional conference coverage could be a possibility for the right person in the right locale.

Nancy Lapid, editor in charge, Reuters Health

Reuters Health is seeking freelance medical news reporters who can deliver sharp, insightful, engaging articles about medical research studies, on tight deadlines, for either of two audiences: consumers, or medical professionals. The reporter should be able to read and interpret highly technical medical research papers, be comfortable with basic statistical concepts, have a track record of interviewing and quoting medical researchers, and be able to use everyday conversational language to put the findings in context.

Brendan Maher, features editor, Nature

What are Nature news features?

They are long-form analytical or narrative stories typically between 1,600 and 3,200 words covering all areas of science, science policy and the scientific community.

They are written with our "core" audience of working scientists across disciplines in mind but also aim to appeal to Nature’s entire readership – anyone with a deep and abiding interest in science.

Readers should feel that they get ‘inside’ access to science and scientific research: how it works, the people behind it, its challenges and its controversies.

They should aim to set the agenda on issues in which science meets society or public policy, such as synthetic biology, genome editing or climate change.

They should be something that scientists will be talking about later over coffee; that institute leaders or policy makers will be quoting in their presentations and debates; and that will provoke discussion in blogs, tweets and other social media.

See for our archive.

Apoorva Mandavilli, editor-in-chief, Spectrum

Spectrum is a news site dedicated to covering the latest in autism research. Our primary audience is scientists, but we try to make our articles broadly accessible to everyone, and syndicate to many mainstream outlets, including The Atlantic, Slate and The Guardian. We run news, profiles, evergreen stories as well as longform narratives. We're 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 eye-tracking paper, but a piece exploring a new direction or trend in eye-tracking technology would get our attention. For profile pitches, tell us why our audience should care about the scientist's contribution to the field, but also what makes them interesting as people. Our longform articles are deep dives into intriguing or controversial aspects of autism research, and are driven by a strong narrative element. Pitches should include the central thesis and outline, the narrative frame and some of the sources you would include. We pay $1.50/word and all travel expenses.

Colleen Paretty, editorial director, WebMD

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 several copies of WebMD Magazine to get a feel for our style and presentation; a complete PSF of the current issue is online at and available as a free app you can download in the iTunes store or on Google Play.

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

MedPage Today is a digital news and information platform with content specifically targeting healthcare professionals – physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, RNs, medical educators, hospital administrators.

We are looking for pitches that address business issues (payment, regulation, medico-legal) that touch the pocketbooks of today’s practitioners. Likewise, we are interested in compelling profiles of those who work in our space – if a doc or a nurse has an interesting story, we want to tell it.

A MedPage Today article requires strong, multi-sourced narrative. Data-driven articles are always a good fit for MedPage Today.

Denise Schipani, features editor,

MedShadow is a nonprofit health/medical information and advocacy site. I’m looking for short (700-800 word) posts on breaking research topics that are relevant to our readers (this is something new for us; I’d love to find a few writers who are already on top of studies coming out and can alert me and get me a post quickly), as well as ideas for stories of varying lengths (our longest features are 1,200 words). 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 – I’m open to feature ideas, slideshows, blog posts, etc.

Lacy Schley, assistant editor, Discover

Discover is always on the lookout for pitches that cover our main reader interests of archaeology & anthropology, science history, health & medicine, technology, psychology & neuroscience, physics & astronomy and environmental issues.

We’re currently accepting narrative and chunky feature pitches, as well as pitches for the following columns/departments: Short, visual stories for our lively front-of-book section, The Crux; self-reported essays about the behavioral sciences for Mind Over Matter, narrative stories that explore new earth/environmental research for Notes from Earth, narratives or essays on science history topics for History Lessons, stories on new research that advances our understanding of human origins for Origin Story, compelling stories on all the universe has to offer for Out There and stories that spotlight new or surprising theories, ideas and findings for Big Idea.

Crux stories generally range from 200-450 words, most columns are 1,000-1,200 words, while features typically range from 2,000-4,000.

Allison Shelley, conference news editor, Medscape Medical News

Medscape editors are looking for freelance journalists to report for specialist physicians, primary care, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals. We are looking for new voices to join us as we circle the globe to talk to thought leaders and report timely, comprehensive, multiple-sourced stories for busy, informed audiences looking to stay current in their practices. Long-term investigative projects will be considered for candidates with journalism experience and the ability to critically evaluate and report clinical data.

Peter Wehrwein, editor, Managed Care

Managed Care is a monthly publication with a combined digital and print circulation of about 68,000. The core reader is a medical director at a payer or a provider organization. The staff is small, so we depend on freelancers. Two writers who regularly write for the magazine pitched at last year’s AHCJ annual meeting, so the PitchFest works.

We cover health care financing, delivery, and clinical issues through the prism of cost, price and coverage. Ideally, writers brave the acronym-choked weeds (ACOs, HIEs, PBMs, the ACA) and emerge with a story that is clear and revealing.  Our pieces are constructed from a mix of interviews and data from government and industry reports and published studies, so writers need to be comfortable weaving together words and numbers. The goal is to give readers fresh, useful insights into the forces shaping the world they work in.