Story pitching tips from someone who reads them for a living

byJessica Weiss
Dec 1, 2014 in Freelancing

Storyhunter, the platform that's connected freelance video journalists with publishers since 2012, is now open to print journalists, photographers and more. 

The expansion beyond video is based largely on demand from publishers in need of a wider skill-set, like fixers, translators, narrators, writers, photographers and sound recorders, according to co-founder and chief executive Jaron Gilinsky. Gilinsky worked as a freelance video journalist for eight years before starting the platform. 

Storyhunter is focused on helping freelance journalists, or “Storyhunters,” make a living. To that end, vetted journalists can use the system in four ways, to: 1) find work, 2) communicate easily about expectations on a project, 3) access insurance and 4) facilitate payments.

On the other end, publishers can use the database to find a Storyhunter in a specific place or with a needed skill-set and then commission them for a job.

Gilinsky stressed that Storyhunter is not a citizen journalism platform. “We’re still going to be stringent on who gets in,” he says. “We only work with qualified vetted professionals.”

IJNet recently spoke to Gilinsky about tips for writing a great pitch. Though these tips are geared toward users of Storyhunter, they can be helpful for any freelancer, anywhere.

1. Know the publisher and your audience

It’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with the publication that you are pitching to, Gilinsky says. The Storyhunter platform enables users to read an editor’s personal profile as well as the profile of the publication. In addition, it’s smart to “watch, read, and analyze a large number of stories by an editor before pitching to a publication for the first time,” he said. “This will help you know if they’ve done anything on the topic already, as well as better understand their editorial standards, style and tone.”

2. Write a great subject line

To catch a busy editor’s eye, a catchy subject line is crucial. “The goal here is to intrigue an editor and make them want to learn more in less than 10 words,” Gilinsky said. “At the same time, it must genuinely portray the topic you’ll be exploring in the story.”

3. Communicate significance, timeliness and access

In two or three sentences, your pitch should explain “why the story matters, why it’s newsworthy and why it’s surprising,” Gilinsky said. Try to include answers to all the questions that an editor could ask, like: “Why does this story need to be told? Why now? Why are you the best journalist to do it? How is the information in your story useful to your audience? Are you raising awareness of an underreported issue? Is the angle of the story a new way to look at a relevant issue? Do you have access that no other journalist has?”

4. Attach visuals and links

Pictures really do speak a thousand words. “If you have access to images or video of your main subject, attach them to the pitch,” Gilinsky said. “Even if this is a print story, visuals can help support your pitch by helping the editor understand the character a bit more.”

5. Pitch to your friends

Gilinsky suggests using “social validation” to know when you’ve got a great story. “Go to a bar or cafe and casually run the story idea by your friends. Are they intrigued and interested in finding out more about the story? If not, try and find out why.” Feedback from regular people who consume news daily is often the best way to refine your pitch before sending it to an editor.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fabrizio Rinaldi under a CC-license.