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Health Journalism 2018: Freelance PitchFest

Attention independent journalists!

Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Phoenix 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.

New this year: PitchFest FAQ

You will be asked to confirm that you have read and agree to the terms outlined in this FAQ. Please take the time to read through it ahead of time and be sure to contact us with any questions.

Important dates

March 1, noon CT
Must be registered for the conference to participate in online signups

March 7, 10 a.m. CT
Advance online signups open

March 9
Deadline to submit trial pitches for the conference panel "Real pitches, real-time critiques.

March 26, noon CT
Advance online signups close

April 11, 3 p.m. MT
On-site signups open

April 12, 3 p.m. MT
On-site signups close

IMPORTANT:

  • You must be an AHCJ member, in the "professional" category and be 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 online sign-up period. 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 11 at 3 p.m. and close on April 12 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.

Participating editors

Here are the editors that have agreed to participate. More information about what they are looking for will be forthcoming.

Mark Barna, associate editor, Discover

Discover Magazine looks for health science stories that are not being covered by the popular press and other science magazines. The best stories bring together fresh research on a topic that has not yet been synthesized into a feature. Our readers usually aren't fluent in science-speak, so we ask our writers to clearly explain complex ideas so that someone with little  knowledge of a topic can follow the narrative. We strive to present science stories that are engaging and readable. Most features require several revisions, so a writer needs to be available to work through the revisions on deadline.

Valarie Basheda, director of news and special reports, WebMD

WebMD seeks stories that make sense of health news and emerging trends to help readers understand what it means for them. We strive to go beyond first-day headlines and dive deeper into topics to provide value for our readers. Our stories synthesize and convey information in an engaging and informative way that avoids jargon and speaks to readers in language they understand.

Pitches should explain why a story is significant and why we should write about it now. Make sure your pitch has a clear focus and that you include data and research to back it up. What is new and different about your idea that makes it interesting? Also think visually – are there any images or video we can use or graphics we can create that could go with your story?

All our news is reviewed by WebMD’s medical doctors for medical accuracy in addition to content editing from our news team. Make sure your sources are credible and in sync with those we use on the site (every news story has a source box).

Jennifer Bleyer, senior editor, Psychology Today

I edit midsection stories (800-1500 words) that deal with mind-body health, social psychology, or relationships. I don't generally need a full, fleshed out pitch to tell if it might work for us or not - 3-5 sentences is fine, including links to the online source material (usually journal abstracts) and a reference to where the research appeared and when. If your idea is based on just one study, the paper should be very counterintuitive or groundbreaking, and pretty recent (from the last six months or so.) Whenever possible it's great to go beyond just one new study and present something that addresses an emerging body of research. The most important thing is that it feel current, fresh and cutting edge. 

I also edit features (3000-4000 words) which are deeper dives into a subject. These can be about a field of research, a profile of a really interesting scientist or psychologist or just a regular person whose story connects to mental health, or a story showing how behavior science is being applied to a pressing social issue. I especially like narrative features that tells a story of a person or community as a way of exploring a bigger behavioral issue. 

Lastly, I take pitches for PT’s Two-Minute Memoir which is a 1,200-1,500 word personal essay that tells a moving, original personal story. These are almost *never* about therapy or mental health conditions, and they're not typically frivolous or humorous. I like a story that has a unique angle and shows an insight gained.

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.

Sue Byrne, editor, Remedy Health Media

Remedy Health Media seeks freelance consumer health writers for the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health monthly newsletter (HealthAfter50) and its 13 annual condition-based white papers. Our articles feature the most current research, simply explained, and usually offer takeaway advice. Looking for feature-length articles (1,200 words) as well as short news items. Experience writing articles geared to baby boomers is helpful. You will need to know how to comb through a medical study and write in a lively feature style. Articles are doctor reviewed, so you will have to provide sourcing. Topics include arthritis, back pain, diabetes, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, memory loss, mental health, nutrition and weight control, osteoporosis, prostate disorders, respiratory disorders, and vision. Please provide background and clips.

Elizabeth Devita Raeburn, senior editor – cancer, 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.

EH balances the patient POV with the expert POV to provide well-rounded content that describes what it’s like to live with a condition and how best to do that.

Our content is factual and actionable. With each piece of content, EH includes easy-to-read key findings, tips, and strategies to help readers take steps forward in their health journey.

We keep our content succinct, and we keep it friendly. When readers know they’ll leave with great takeaways, they’ll want to share, and they want come back for more.

My beat is all things cancer. I’m looking for 1000- to 1300-word articles that address the challenges of living with any of the types of cancers, conditions, from diagnosis to treatment to symptom management to relationships to the emotional side of living with a chronic illness. I’m also interested in news stories on emerging treatments and new developments.

Writers should be able to provide the necessary background, while including engaging patient quotes and input from respected authorities in the field.

Joyce Frieden, news editor, MedPage Today

MedPage Today’s target audience includes all varieties of healthcare professionals, but the focus remains physicians, nurses, and physician assistants.

We seek 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 excites us is a good story that pulls the user in and holds his or her attention.

Lynya Floyd, health director, Family Circle

Family Circle focuses on moms of tweens and teens encouraging them to live a 360 life.

We include service-driven content around health, family life, career, home, food, fashion and beauty.

Gideon Gil, managing editor, Stat

Stat is a national digital news site focused on telling compelling stories about medicine, scientific discovery, and the business of making drugs. Our articles and multimedia are authoritative and deeply reported, so that they're credible to the professionals who work in these fields, while being accessible and engaging. 

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, that captivate and even provoke. These can include profiles, trend stories, news features, narratives, and investigative stories. We're increasingly looking for stories for the growing Stat Plus subscriber portion of our site, which focuses on the life sciences and biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

Pitches should include a succinct description of the idea and why it's important and timely, as well as a summary of what, if anything, has been written about the topic by other media. We'd also like to know how you plan to go about reporting the story — who will you be interviewing and what places do you intend to visit. And finally, we'd like to see examples of your previous work and a resume. Length and pay will be decided 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’ll need to write to our other editors if you have ideas in other areas. Please take a look at our website, www.nextavenue.org, before writing. 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 don’t already 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.

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 editor@genomemag.com.

Tod Jones, managing editor, The Costco Connection

What I look for in a pitch is an idea from someone who has done their homework and is familiar with the publication — someone who understands the need for story ideas to have a Costco “connection.”

The magazine covers general interest topics — small business, travel, health, books, DVDs, home & garden, automotive, pets, hardware, recreation — that have relevance to Costco, in regard to services or products, suppliers or Costco members.

Each issue features a “special section” that ties into the merchandising plans of the buyers, and contains an expanded number of articles focused on those topics.

We also publish a Canadian bi-monthly and a UK bi-monthly magazine. Consideration of whether the topic might work in our other publications is a plus.

Roxanne Khamsi, chief news editor, Nature Medicine

Nature Medicine is a monthly journal and sister publication of Nature magazine. We seek stories (generally 1,000-2,400 words) about big ideas in biomedicine that are 1) profound enough to spark excitement from a general reader and also 2) new enough that they surprise our core readers (scientists). Pitch us about a novel research tool that is changing how biologists study a disease or about how a maverick with solid data is on track to upend what we know about a particular illness. One important thing to bear in mind is that we never, ever publish so-called ‘single study stories’ – all of our pieces are built around more than one published paper. When you pitch your story, tell us who the main characters are in the narrative, and why you’ve chosen to focus on them. What is the big idea that they have? And has it been reported before? If it’s already received coverage, it’s almost certain that it’s not a good fit for us. Look for exclusives. Most of all, the stories we run are about really scientifically robust research, and writers should be comfortable explaining the biological mechanisms involved in the pieces they report in depth.

Amy Kraft, senior editor, gastrointestinal disorders, heart health, 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.

EH balances the patient POV with the expert POV to provide well-rounded content that describes what it’s like to live with a condition and how best to do that.

Our content is factual and actionable. With each piece of content, EH includes easy-to-read key findings, tips, and strategies to help readers take steps forward in their health journey.

Our content is snackable and shareable. We keep it succinct, and we keep it friendly. When readers know they’ll leave with great takeaways, they’ll want to share, and they want come back for more.

As the senior editor of gastrointestinal content and heart heat, I’m especially seeking fresh ideas in the following areas:

• Crohn’s disease
• Ulcerative Colitis
• IBS
• GERD
• Heart Attack
• High Blood Pressure
• High Cholesterol
• Heart failure
• Afib

We’re seeking 1000- to 1300-word articles that address the challenges of living with these conditions, from diagnosis to treatment to symptom management to relationships to the emotional side of living with a chronic illness.

Writers should be able to provide the necessary background, while including engaging patient quotes and input from respected authorities in the field.

Nancy Lapid, editor-in-charge, Reuters Health

Reuters Health reports on medical research studies for consumers and medical professionals. We assign studies to our freelancers; you don’t need to pitch to us but you do need to be able to read and interpret the medical literature and explain complex topics in conversational language. We need people who understand medical issues, statistics and study design, and who can track down medical researchers for interviews on tight deadlines. 

Dina Fine Maron, editor, health and medicine, 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 1600-3000 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 (www.scientificamerican.com) and capable of delivering on well-explained, highly technical research. Our writers have a proven track record of reporting thoroughly, accurately and responsibly. They must deliver tight, innovative copy with a strong narrative. SciAm stories should tie together new scientific findings in an interesting way and/or showcase new research that will change our understanding of a certain medical condition, how to treat it or settle longstanding questions.

Amanda Mascarelli, managing editor, Sapiens

SAPIENS publishes pieces that provide smart and surprising insights into human culture, language, evolution, and history, with the aim of reaching a popular, nonacademic audience. We would like to broaden and deepen our coverage of health-related topics, as well as medical and biological anthropology. Our aim is to deepen our readers’ understanding of the human experience through ideas that are grounded in or related to anthropological research, theories, and thinking.

Features should be deeply reported and should draw on concrete anthropological research and perspectives, while also engaging readers with well-crafted storytelling. We welcome pitches from journalists for both news and features. Please see our contributor guidelines for more information.

Tracy Middleton, health and features editor, Women’s Health magazine

Women’s Health is looking for smart, accessible journalism aimed at a health-conscious audience of 20-45 year-olds.

Our wheelhouse is physical and mental health, fitness, nutrition, and sexual health, but we're open to any wellness-related topics that tap into the zeitgeist and that motivate and inspire our readers to make positive changes in their lives. We primarily publish reported pieces, but are open to compelling first-person essays. 

Kristen Ozelli, editor, Spectrum

I am looking for feature stories that explore social and research trends within the autism community, blending emerging science with human experience on the spectrum. Recent stories have considered the relationship between autism and schizophrenia, what are scientists learning from 'baby sibling' research and what is parenting like on the spectrum. Our features run between 2,500 and 4,000 words in length and are often republished by one of our syndication partners, including The Atlantic, Slate, The Independent, The Washington Post and Scientific American. They are written with a general audience in mind, but dig deep enough into the science to satisfy our primary audience of scientists.

Katie Palmer, senior editor, Wired

I run the online science vertical at Wired, so pitches to me should primarily be for web. Most of the stories I greenlight are 1,000-ish words, usually with a leading character or group solving a problem or confronting tension in a field — something to give a narrative arc for the reader to follow. Ideally there’d be some on-ground reporting to build a couple of visual scenes into the story, or deep enough phone interviews to reconstruct those scenes.

Topics we’re interested in include genetic engineering, synthetic biology, and the ways technology shapes health care — nbut we’re open to any topic given the right narrative hook and a true sense of novelty. The thing I’m looking for most in freelance pitches is insight into an area that I’m totally unfamiliar with; I want to know all the weird machinations that drive science and medicine forward behind the scenes, and how those cultural and technological quirks ultimately impact the world we live in. We also run mid-length features on the web; around 3,500 words, with everything above but more. And I can field pitches for magazine features, though I won’t be the one to ultimately give the green light on those.

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

Rural Health Quarterly (RHQ) is a national 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 all issues related to rural health care. 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 well-developed features (1,000 or more words) that cover timely and relevant rural health 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 story in detail, including its 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.

Erica Teichert,  news editor, Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare is the leading business and policy brand for healthcare executives. Our audience is predominantly made up of C-suite executives. Our focus is breaking news, policy analysis and market trends. Every story strives to tell how hospitals’ or insurers’ business will be impacted by policy, economic or other factors. For freelancers, we are looking for pitches that go beyond the news of the day and offer analysis on trends that are reshaping the industry, or profile unique business/care models. Freelancers should fully understand our audience and pitch stories that are relevant to healthcare executives who are deeply rooted in the industry.

Tom Zeller Jr., editor in chief, Undark

Undark runs a steady mix of short blog posts, 1000- to 2000-word reported features, and 12 long-form narratives each year. We are always on the lookout for stories that, like our namesake, illuminate instances where science intersects in complicated ways (that is, both beneficially and detrimentally) with everyday lives — particularly those of disenfranchised or under-covered populations. This can entail everything from on-the-ground medicine to public health policy, and from pure bench research to applied technologies. Stories that expose bias, harassment, or conflicts of interest within science are also of interest, as are those that explore the influence of industry and/or money on science in general. Journalists with multimedia ideas (video, audio, interactive graphics) and the skills to produce them are encouraged to bring them to Undark, as are reporters with solid investigative ideas. Environmental and climate stories are by far the most common pitches we receive and the bar on these is high. 

Coordinator: Jeanne Erdmann, independent journalist