This past August, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA for short) held their first D.C. regional conference. It was a great opportunity for area freelance writers to meet agents, pitch editors, and attend panel discussions on everything from writing craft to best practices in social media. I’ve been a member of ASJA for years and have learned a great deal at their fantastic annual conferences, which are held in New York City each Spring.
At this summer’s D.C. event, I moderated a panel on MID-ATLANTIC LIFE: Washington D.C. region’s lifestyle and regional publications. During the session, editors from Washington Post Magazine, Amtrak’s Arrive, Bethesda, and Arlington, spoke about what they’re looking for in story ideas as well as what makes a good pitch. Here are a few tips they shared:
ABOUT WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE
Elizabeth Chang, Articles Editor | elizabeth.Chang@washpost.com. Twitter: @ElizabethGChang
Weekly Sunday publication with a 600,000 print circulation and a robust online presence (the Post overall had a record 54 million unique visits in June). Cover and inside stories take the form of locally based yet universally relatable narratives about the people and issues of the day. Freelance pitches welcome.
Also publish popular and successful weekly features such as Date Lab, @Work Advice, restaurant reviews and Gene Weingarten’s humor column. Freelancers contribute to Date Lab and the local Street Smart feature. TIPS: Freelancers can apply to be part of The Post’s Talent Network, which will make it easy to connect with/pitch editors at the Magazine as well as other sections of The Post. Those interested should visit https://talentnetwork.washingtonpost.com/.
ABOUT ARRIVE MAGAZINE
Leigh Flayton, Editor in Chief | Leigh.Flayton@mcmurrytmg.com. Twitter: @LeighFlayton
Arrive serves as Amtrak’s onboard general interest magazine, covering such topics as the arts, business, travel, food & drink, lifestyle and culture. Our readership is business and leisure travelers in the Northeastern United States. Our circulation is 1.4 million readers per bimonthly issue. TIPS: We plan our editorial calendar very far in advance. We accept feature story submissions each year from Jan. 1 – May 15, and assign features in June for the following year. Our departments tend to get assigned about six months out.
It’s actually easy to get an editor’s attention and get published. It just may take a little time. But know the product! Know our submission guidelines, the kinds of stories we publish and our timeline — and then pitch accordingly.
Our website, amtrakmedianetwork.com, shares a lot of information on the magazine, along with our archive of past issues. Read them and familiarize yourself with our departments, features and you’ll get a good sense of what we look for.
ABOUT BETHESDA MAGAZINE
Mary Clare Glover, Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @maryclareglover
We’re looking for stories about the many interesting people who live, work and/or come from this area. We are written almost entirely by freelancers, and publish stories on a wide range of topics including dining, arts, local politics, health, interior design and architecture, and pets. TIPS: We ask that pitches be as specific and detailed as possible, including the “why” of the story, any background that would make it especially appealing, the local connection and a general idea of sources you plan to seek out.
Because the magazine is bi-monthly, we work months in advance. So if you’re pitching a story for summer, you should probably do so sometime in January or February. In addition, our stories generally take a long-term perspective and aren’t tied to specific events or anniversaries—we want stories that will be as relevant several months from now as they are today.
ABOUT ARLINGTON MAGAZINE
Jenny Sullivan, Editor | email@example.com
Arlington Magazine is a local, bi-monthly consumer magazine covering Arlington, McLean and Falls Church, Virginia. We cover food and dining, real estate and home design, community issues, education, parenting, health and fitness, history, travel, arts and entertainment. We are still a relatively young company, having launched our first issue in late 2011.
Nearly all of our stories are freelance written. A perfect story for Arlington Magazine will highlight an interesting local resident or a cultural phenomenon that is idiosyncratic to our coverage area; or take an issue that’s trending in the national spotlight and examine that issue through a local lens, relying on local experts, sources and statistics to tell the story. A good pitch will explain not only why your idea is a good story, but why it’s a good Arlington story.
We work with extremely long lead times and do not cover breaking news. Stories that are seasonal in nature may be assigned more than a year in advance, although the average lead time for a feature assignment is 3-6 months. TIPS: It may seem obvious, but reading back issues of the magazine (all stories are archived at www.arlingtonmagazine.com) is the best way to get a sense of our tone, focus and what we’ve already published. If the issue that’s just hit newsstands has a cover story on kids and sports, it’s not a good time to pitch a story on kids and sports.
Understand that every issue of the magazine includes a carefully orchestrated mix of stories. You may have an amazing pitch about a local opera singer that’s perfect for our audience, but if we’re already working on a profile about another musician for the next issue, we won’t be in a position to pursue your idea right away.
We look for good narrative storytellers who pay attention to things like character development, dialog, setting and tone. Good feature writing uses descriptive details to bring people, places and issues to life.