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Student Q&A: The Art of Slanting an Article Pitch

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Recently, this message floated into my inbox:

Hi! My name is Alicia, I've been a Women's Health Nurse (among many other departments!) for 13ish years. I have the Ultimate [Health Journalism Basics for Nurses] course and the 50 Markets download (great info btw) but I noticed there wasn't a lot of sources that dealt with women, pregnancy, children, pedi, etc...I was wondering if this was because there isn't really a market in that niche or if it wasn't yours so you didn't really know those avenues?

And this feels like such a dumb question but when I go to a specific site (The Atlantic for example) where would I find the "pitch your ideas to us here" button? I looked under "Contact Us", "Careers", "Press" and even searched but I just couldn't find it! Which probably means it is right in front of my face hahaha

Thanks for your help :)
Alicia B, RN

Although I no longer offer individual coaching with the Ultimate Health Journalism Basics for Nurses course, I asked Alicia if I could use her question for the blog – so I could help her and hundreds of other aspiring health reporters. She graciously said yes.

Here’s my response to Alicia:

Do not look for a market that is specific to women/pregnancy/peds, etc., but instead figure out what type of article you could pitch to ANY outlet using that angle. 

For example: AARP is included in the market list. You are correct that it is not market specifically aimed at women, young mothers, etc. So, the way to play this game is to figure out what sort of article an AARP editor might be interested in buying that’s related to your preferred subject matter area. Ask yourself who is AARP’s audience? What types of women/pregnancy/childbirth-related content might that audience be interested in?

Well, their audience clearly is people over retirement age. Let’s say age 55+. I don’t know what proportion of their readers are women, but men are equally likely to be interested in certain topics you could pitch as an expert Women’s Health Nurse.

One thing I can think of, off the top of my head, that a person over age 55 might be interested in right now is this: What to do (or expect) if you’re expecting a grandbaby during the pandemic. Alicia, your expertise in women’s health can aid you in writing a stellar query that reflects the questions/concerns older adults might have about this issue: Is it safe for my child/in-law to give birth right now? Will I be allowed to visit the hospital? Should I stay away from the newborn for some period of time – and when it IS prudent for us to visit the newborn, what precautions should we take? Masks? Will we be able to hold our new grandbaby, or is that off-limits?

Do you get the sense now of how this works? Your job as a freelancer is to come up with article angles that serve the target publication’s audience, not necessarily to find markets that cater to your preferred audience.

Next, to your question (which is not at all “dumb”!) about how to find out how to submit pitches. You did all the right things and looked in all the right places. In general, it’s not always easy to find editorial contact information. I recommend you try some Google searches for terms like “AARP writer guidelines” or “AARP managing editor” (since that’s usually the person who assigns articles). You also could try these types of searches on LinkedIn and (of all places) on Twitter. A lot of editors hang out on Twitter and even post calls for pitches. When you find the right person, send the query directly to them by email. Put the pitch in the body of the email; do not attach anything.

Finding editorial contact information is among the thorniest issues freelance health journalists face. It simply takes online research and perseverance. And here’s a veteran health reporter tip from yours truly: You can always pick up the phone and call the publication’s offices. Tell the receptionist you’re a reporter wanting to pitch an article, and ask for the managing editor’s email address. Chances are they’ll be happy to provide it.

Good luck to Alicia and everyone! Happy pitching!

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