Journalism students face a Catch-22: They need clips to get clips.
At NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, we help students feel comfortable pitching, by providing resources and workshops. We also help create opportunities for students to be published.
Pitching Basics for Writers
Think like an editor
Remember that an editor often must pitch your story to other editors. Make it easy for her by being clear in the email (and in your mind) what your story is about.
Come up with a headline and a dek
This exercise will help you find and clarify your thesis. The hed and dek may not stick, but they will help an editor understand what you’re pitching.
Why you? Why now?
Know the answers to these questions before you pitch. If the answer to “why now?” is “because I was able to get the person on the phone” or “because I think it’s interesting,” keep thinking about your idea. What reporting or access can only you share? Why is running your article important now?
Know the publication
Read the newspaper or magazine to which you’re pitching. Familiarize yourself with the different sections and series. Does the publication take freelance? Has it covered your angle already? The more you read, the more targeted you can be in your pitch.
If a pitch feels too general, an editor likely won’t commission your article. Think of what you would say to a friend about your work. You wouldn’t speak in generalities; you’d tell them about the aspects of the story that most excite you, the elements that feel most important.
Make the pitch short
In your pitch, aim for three short paragraphs, tops. If you can get the email shorter, then even better. Pitch the story in a paragraph and give the editor some sense of why it works for his section. Then briefly, give your credentials.
Find the right editor
If possible, email the editor who covers your area of interest. Look at the publication’s masthead, follow editors on Twitter, read “how to pitch” pages. If you can’t find an editor’s name and email address, don’t worry. General pitch email addresses also work, but it’s always better to email a person.
Editors at many publications explicitly tell writers how to pitch. Take a look at these “How to Pitch” pages. They are helpful whether you want to pitch these particular publications or not.
Need help with your pitch? Join the Pitch Collective
Workshop your pitch with Whitney Dangerfield, the publications director, and your fellow students.
Thursdays, 3:30pm – 4:30pm beginning Sept. 15.
NYU Journalism Institute, 20 Cooper Square, Room 600.
Coming up this semester, we’ll have panels on:
How to freelance successfully
Get advice from two experts:
Alyson Krueger, a graduate of Magazine and Digital Storytelling, regularly writes for The New York Times and other publications. Elizabeth Flock graduated from Literary Reportage. Her features and films have appeared on the PBS NewsHour and in the New Yorker among other publications.
Sept. 29 at 5pm on Zoom.
When your idea is actually a book
How is an idea better suited for John Hendrickson, a writer and senior editor at The Atlantic, has a new book, Life on Delay, coming out soon. Jonathan Segal is his editor at Penguin RandomHouse.
What editors wish freelancers knew
The business of freelancing
The publications director is working with editors to create opportunities for students. Check out the “Getting Published” newsletter (starting Sept. 15) for tips from students, Q&As with professional writers and editors, and calls for pitches.
Let us know when you’ve been published by filling out this form.
Meet Whitney Dangerfield, Publications Director
Whitney has more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She was most recently a senior editor at The Atlantic. Before that, she was the digital editor at Serial and This American Life, a senior staff editor at The New York Times, and an editor at National Geographic Magazine.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Room 641)
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Other times by appointment.