Whether you're a journalist on staff or a freelancer, pitching story ideas to an editor is a process often fraught with frustration: you think you nailed it, but many times the answer is either "no, thanks" or, well, just nothing.
Editors are busy, and while your ego would be less bruised if they took the time (and common courtesy) to tell you why they rejected your pitch, they often don't.
Here are five common reasons editors won't tell you about why they nixed your idea:
The idea is good, but you are too high maintenance. You miss deadlines without warning, you don't file the story you pitched, or you don't stick to word counts or image requirements. You are selling a product, and it should meet specifications. If you can impress an editor by getting one more source than agreed on while keeping the word count down or obtain enough awesome extra images for a slide show, great. Otherwise, stick to what the editor approved.
They already did it or are just about to do it. There's no point in getting paranoid about idea stealing--news hounds tend to have the same or similar good story ideas. If the publication has run similar articles, your pitch should persuade the editor that your story adds something to the topic. But if you haven't been reading the publication closely enough to know they just ran it and you keep hounding the editor for an answer--you are speeding into high maintenance territory.
They like the idea, but don't think you can pull it off. Increasingly, you must sell yourself as the right journalist for this particular story. If the idea/project is ambitious and you have a bad track record (see no. 1) the editor may pass because it's just too risky. Remember, editors will do a quick cost/benefit analysis when taking you on. Some stories just aren't worth the trouble.
Your pitch is another version of a story we already told you we don't want or are not running anymore. When your editor says, "We're not doing stories on puppy videos now because they aren't really working," stop pitching them. And especially avoid pitching them anyway and arguing that this particular puppy video is different. Ignoring what the editor says about what's working or what they need is the quickest way to mark yourself as a writer whose pitches get deleted or someone who might be replaced.
They like your idea, but have no freelance budget and/or are worried about their job. Sometimes it's not about you. There may be behind-the-scenes drama that the editor isn't able to discuss. And, yes, story pitches take a backseat if the editor is worried about saving his or her bacon.
Photo, CC-licensed, thanks to Andreas Winterer on Flickr.