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Health Journalism 2019: Freelance Pitchfest

Friday, May 3, 1:40-3:50 p.m.

Gideon Gil, a managing editor at Stat, listens to a pitch during the 2018 Freelance Pitchfest.
Gideon Gil, a managing editor at Stat, listens to a pitch during the 2018 Freelance Pitchfest. (Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ)

Important dates

March 12, 10 a.m. CT
Advance online signups open

April 5, noon CT
Advance online signups close

May 1, 3 p.m. ET
On-site signups open

May 2, 3 p.m. ET
On-site signups close

Attention independent journalists!

Editors from some of the top magazines, newspapers and websites are coming to Baltimore 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. Do your homework on each editor.

Get strategies to succeed: 

AHCJ webcast

We strongly recommend watching "Packaging the perfect pitch," a webcast with two top editors and an experienced freelancer that will help you prepare for the PitchFest.

Get feedback about your pitches ahead of the PitchFest. The Pitch Doctor workshop returns on Thursday, May 2, with editors from Undark, Women's Health and Real Simple. Submit your trial pitch by April 5 for consideration.

Please note: 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:

  • 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 THREE appointments during the advance online sign-up period (March 12-26). 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 May 1 at 3 p.m. and close on May 2 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 12 until noon CT on April 5 On-site sign ups will begin when registration opens at 3 p.m. on May 1, and will end on May 2 at 3 p.m.

Participating editors

Here are the editors that have agreed to participate.

Kathleen Fifield, writer/editors, AARP

We seek engaging but easily digested health stories and features on topics of interest to the over-50 reader. We might run a quick turnaround story on, say, a study about surgery outcomes for the elderly (maybe), but we don’t consider our core readers the elderly; rather a wide range of middle to older ages. (We tire quickly of pitches/leads that make blanket statements about “people over a certain age.”) AARP’s web site regularly covers areas such as brain and heart health, diabetes, and cancer, as well as all manner of wellness topics. A great story for us goes beyond a first-day headline to both explain a highly relevant health issue to our readers as well as to offer actionable service that they can use in their own lives. We also occasionally run longer features that break down more cutting-edge topics in a readable way or that offer patient or doctor perspectives. We’re not opposed to shorter stories that hinge on a single new study if the piece gives some context and service to go with it. Often, the best stories flesh out a familiar health topic from at least a couple of fresh angles — with a little inspiration to live more healthfully artfully included in a great quote or kicker.

Rebecca Shannonhouse, editor-in-chief, Bottom Line Health

Bottom Line Health is a consumer-health newsletter that focuses on all aspects of health, including conventional and complementary medicine. Our readers, who are mostly age 55 and older, are health savvy and look to us for fresh information that is actionable and evidence-based. Our publication, which has approximately 150,000 subscribers, is independent and does not accept outside advertising. Bottom Line Health is entering its 34th year of publication. We also publish direct-to-web health content.

($650 for 800 to 1,000 words.)

Kate Yandell, digital editor, Cancer Today

Cancer Today is a quarterly print magazine and website for cancer patients and their loved ones published by the American Association for Cancer Research. We are looking for stories that offer practical information about advances in cancer research and treatment. We cover issues for patients and loved ones like quality of life, mental health, disparities in access to care, family issues and financial strain. Many stories for our website, which I edit, focus on cancer research, often by explaining in clear language what a recent study really means. I am also looking for Q&A’s with researchers who can explain a topic of interest or with patients who are working to improve life for others with cancer. For our magazine, we are looking for pitches of news stories on recent research (max 600 words), as well as 300-word articles on maintaining a healthy lifestyle during and after cancer treatment. I’m also happy to receive pitches for magazine features (1800-2000 words), with the caveat that we have limited slots for these stories that we fill far in advance of the publication date.

(Approximately $300 for 700-word reported web stories and $1/word for print magazine stories.)

Tod Jones, managing editor, The Connection

Costco Wholesale is looking for pitches from writers who have done their homework and are familiar with the publication – writers whose proposals show they understand the Costco Connection. The magazine covers general interest topics, small business, travel, health, books, DVDs, home and garden, automotive, pets, hardware, and recreation – all topics that have relevance to Costco 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 monthly magazine. Consideration of whether the topic might work in our other publications is a plus.

($1.25/word.)

Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, senior editor, Everyday Health

EverydayHealth.com is looking for people who can write news, general content, and service pieces relevant to the topics of oncology and mental health.

Essays and blog posts that offer personal takes on these topics are also welcome.

(App. $350.)

Kendall Wenaas, associate health editor, Family Circle

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

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

 

 

 

Kytia Weir, national editor, Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is looking for excellent state-based stories on the health care industry and policies. We’d seek pieces that shine a new light on who is calling the shots on health care issues and how that translates to real people. We’re looking for texture from individual states, especially those in the Midwest and Mountain regions, trends that connect the dots across states and compelling reads on issues that we aren't seeing elsewhere. Tell us your tight, bright ideas.

($1-$2/word.)

Eva Emerson, editor-in-chief, Knowable Magazine from Annual Reviews  

Knowable Magazine seeks pitches for timely, compelling, well-reported stories about what is known and what is not known about science in a range of 50 fields covered in the Annual Reviews journals.

Our stories are inspired by topics reviewed in journal articles, but authors need to identify an angle and tell us why they are qualified to tell the story.

(1.50 per word.)

Peter Wehrwein, editor, Managed Care magazine

Managed Care is a monthly publication that covers the organization, cost, coverage, and delivery of health care; we’re in the intersection of health care policy, business, and insurance — with some clinical issues thrown in. Medical directors and other “physician executives” are the core audience. Several AHCJ members are regular contributors to the magazin. Most got started through an AHCJ Pitchfest. The biggest need now is for writers who can tackle pharma issues from both a clinical and business perspective. More important than your pitch is your background and familiarity with the publication, so please check out www.managedaremag.com. Thank you for considering Managed Care as a publication you might like to write for. 

Denise Fulton, executive editor, MDedge News

MDedge 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. In 2019, we are particularly interested in physicians’ stories – What are their challenges? How do they integrate medicine and life? How do they avoid burnout? As always, we seek freelances for medical meeting coverage, Washington policy reporting, features and news stories. 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, IDPractitioner.com, ACS Surgery News, CHEST Physicians, GI & Hepatology News, Thoracic Surgery News, and Vascular Specialist.

Deborah Flapan, news director, Medscape

Medscape is interested in pitches that look at medicine from a new angle, with specific relevance to physicians and other healthcare professionals. Medscape's news can be more complex than news geared toward consumers, with an assumption of a basic foundation of knowledge. We already cover much of the news coming out of medical journals and conferences, so we're looking for unique pitches that will engage readers. Styles can range from shorter explorations to narrative pieces or investigative reports, but all should have a clear news hook or question to explore and an understanding of why it's relevant and important to physicians and other healthcare professionals. Freelancers can also communicate interest in covering studies from journals and presentations at medical conferences. Journal pieces generally range from 500-800 words and will have 1- to 3-day turnaround. Conference coverage requires travel and requires same-day or next-day turnaround. Most articles require comments from the researcher as well as an independent commentator, so strong interviewing skills are a must.

($500.00.)

Suzanne Robotti, founder and president, MedShadow

MedShadow is seeking writers who worry about the medicines they take. Every medicine has side effects and they can ruin your life or lead to taking more medicines just to manage the side effects of the first medicine. Has this happened to you? Our site visitors want to know the risks and benefits of medicines along with their other choices for wellness. We hire experienced health journalists who have a passion for talking to doctors and patients about medicine's risks and healthy alternatives to wellness.

($600/article.)

Paul Barr, features editor, Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare seeks pitches that explore emerging or changing healthcare industry trends, strategic moves by hospitals, health systems, physicians or insurers or identify problems and solutions for our readers.

Real-world examples or case studies generally are a requirement, as are relevant statistics and data supporting the story. There is little interest for stories on new products or services.

($1/word.)

 

Carmel Wroth, health editor, National Public Radio

NPR is looking for writers with expertise in health science and health policy. Pitch me on a topic you have deep knowledge about, a passion for and good sources to reach out to. Areas we're looking for more coverage on include: mental health and addiction, health disparities, aging and dying, chronic disease prevention, public health innovation, wellness (the science of sleep, exercise, stress, etc.), reproductive health and parenting.

(Pay varies.)

Brendan Maher, features editor, Nature

Nature looks for 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.  Winning pitches 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 among a wide swath of people interested in science.

($1.25 or more.)

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 don't 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? Has it been reported before? If it’s already received coverage, it’s almost certainly not a good fit for us. Look for exclusives. 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.

Trace elements: Innovative biopsy programs map how cancer spreads

Homeward bound: First-of-its-kind US trial hopes to bring hospital treatment to the home

(1.25 per word.)

Kevin McCarthy, editor-in-chief, Rally Health

Rally Health aims to put health in the hands of the individual. Our mission is to empower people with easy-to-use online and mobile tools that help them take charge of their health and health care. We aim to bring our members the best and most accurate evidence-based information they can get in a fun-to-read conversational tone. Our content helps simplify complicated health and wellness information to help our readers make healthy lifestyle choices and navigate the health care system. We are looking for pitches on topics of wide appeal, such as food and nutrition, sleep, stress, mental health, fitness, motivation, workplace wellness, weight loss, meditation, managing chronic conditions, and self care. Our articles are backed by high-quality research and include expert voices offering actionable advice. Our articles are typically 800 to 1,000 words, and start at a flat fee of $500. We are also interested in infographics and other visual storytelling forms. Our original articles appear on our membership site behind a paywall, and on our public-facing website, alongside high-quality licensed material from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harvard Health Letters, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Eating Well, and Shape.

($500 flat fee.)

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 health care professionals, 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.

(Pay varies.)

Cori Vanchieri, features editor, Science News

Science News is looking for feature pitches on research trends in biomedicine.

Stories need a strong narrative thread.

Our readers are laypeople who have a strong interest in science.

(1.50/word.)

 

Betsy Agnvall, editor, Staying Sharp

Staying Sharp is a program that provides evidence-based information and actions you can take to maintain and improve your brain health as you age. It’s a new brain health platform for AARP membership that allows members to take a brain health assessment and participate in tailored activities.

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 (sleep and stress), connect, discover and move. Each article is also tailored to a brain health "outcomes." The outcomes include: creativity/innovation, exercise, nutrition, sleep, happiness, productivity/performance and resilience. Each story connects current research to one of the pillars and outcomes. We are also assigning shorter daily activities that go along with brain health challenges we are creating. The articles are consumer-friendly and written with a light touch.

($1/word.)

Dina Rasor, managing editor, Tarbell

Tarbell is an investigative online news site that investigates fraud in the health care and other industries against the consumer and government agencies. We also investigate undue influence by the health care and pharmaceutical industries on government, especially the federal government.

Tarbell was founded by Wendell Potter, a well-known health care whistleblower, whose goal is to make health care available to all Americans without corporate corruption.

($1.00 per word.)

Lottie Joiner, editor-in-chief, The Crisis

The Crisis magazine is the official publication of the NAACP. The quarterly journal focuses on African American social justice issues, civil rights, history, art and culture. What to pitch: We are looking for stories that look at the social determinants of health in African American communities. 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. We seek pitches with a unique angle on a health issue or stories that have been under-reported or not widely reported by the mainstream press. We are also looking for shorter pieces on organizations, people or community initiatives that work on decreasing health disparities.

($200 for short Upfront stories; .50/word for features.)

Carol Eisenberg, health and policy editor, The Washington Post

The Washington Post is interested in a gamut of consumer-oriented health topics, especially men's health issues and stories that focus on the interests of the 20- to 35-year-old crowd. A news peg or a fresh take helps too -- although we rarely, if ever, take breaking news from freelancers. Science pieces should be pitched at average readers since we are a general-interest publication. We rarely take stories about single studies. And we do not cover mouse research on human diseases or any other early stages of medical research before it has evidence from human trials. We are also interested in stories about animals, specifically human-animal interactions told in an interesting or surprising way. We ask first-time freelancers to make their pitch the first three paragraphs of their story, with a fourth paragraph summing up where it will go from there.

($250 to $600 depending on scope of piece.)

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 publish 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).

(Pay varies.)

 

Coordinator: Jeanne Erdmann, independent journalist