Outside of designated periods of representation, such as Pride months or Black History months, freelancing can often pose challenges for media workers reporting on historically marginalized communities. Publications may lack the funds to prioritize these important narratives at other times of the year outside of their budgets for time-sensitive stories.
While editors may not intend to exclude stories on marginalized communities for much of the year, freelancers may notice more open calls for these issues during awareness months. Publications might decide to increase these commissions at these times when the story topics are considered more newsworthy.
Securing commissions on pieces about historically marginalized people throughout the year requires a multi-pronged approach, taking into consideration the potential for audience engagement and publications’ editorial priorities. As media outlets around the world strive to provide content that includes and engages their audiences, media workers are faced with the simultaneous challenge and opportunity to frame stories of marginalized people in unique ways.
If it feels like your pitches for stories on marginalized communities keep getting rejected throughout the year, taking a new approach to your pitching process may be useful!
Here are three tips to help increase your chances of a successful story pitch on historically marginalized people.
(1) Join freelancer databases to help catalog publications and their needs
Working as a freelance media professional can often feel isolating. Finding gigs can be challenging without an established network and regular pool of opportunities.
Fortunately, freelance writers have established global networks and databases to empower themselves as a community. These platforms can help surface open calls from editors, job opportunities and even provide news on the current media market, including recent layoffs and publications with unethical practices. By keeping up to date with these databases, freelancers can catalog publications and their unique needs, which includes those regularly open to pieces on marginalized communities. Some publications, for instance Vice and Mic, may have entire sections of their site dedicated to diversity representation, labeled under subheadings like “Identity.”
While most databases and networks cost a monthly or yearly subscription fee, it is helpful to inquire whether there are sliding scale rates. Some networks provide discounts or free subscriptions for media workers of color and/or other marginalized media professionals.
One popular database and newsletter shared via email is Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week, which shares job opportunities for journalists as well as open calls for pitches. For $48/year, or $4/month, journalists will be alerted to the opportunities, which include calls for stories on marginalized communities along with contact details for editors. For those who may struggle to pay the subscription fee, Weiser explains, “If you can't afford that, pay what you can. If you can afford more and would like to pay more, that's cool too. No need to ask permission about paying less/more than the suggested amount.”
Another network utilized by media professionals across the world is Study Hall. Loaded with publication pitch guides, how-to’s, and calls for pitches, journalists can stay up to date with outlets that are prioritizing stories about diverse communities. While the all-access Study Hall network can be costly over time with a subscription costing $17 per month, or $170 a year, a significant discount is available to media workers of color, who are encouraged to subscribe for $4 per month.
(2) Utilize social media and hashtags
Many freelancer networks, such as Weiser’s newsletters, gather many of their calls for opportunities on Twitter and other social media platforms. Often operating in a time crunch, many editors turn to social media to post urgent calls for pitches. By typing in buzz words in the search bar such as “freelance pitches writers of color,” social media can provide an extensive pool of both timely and evergreen opportunities.
Social media also enables media professionals to keep an eye on trending topics, share articles to boost engagement, and stay connected with others in the industry. It is important for journalists to act professionally on social media, and pay attention to the details of specific posts. Some editors might only respond to pitches via email or the publications submission page, while others might encourage writers to direct message them. These protocols often vary by individual.
(3) Apply a solutions journalism angle
Media platforms regularly search for meaningful stories that can engage their audiences, provide insights, and make readers feel included. “Fatigued by negative news, some audiences are tuning out, no longer confident in the media’s capacity to reflect either the reality of their lives or the interests of their communities, Solutions Journalism Learning Lab explains. “Solutions journalism offers an opportunity to change that dynamic.”
By authoring stories that better reflect the whole of a community, the issues it faces, and the responses to those problems, journalists can spur more constructive discussion around marginalized communities that piques audience interest. In this way, the Learning Lab explains, there’s an organic and powerful interplay between solutions reporting, and audience and community engagement.
Emphasizing to editors the solutions journalism approach you plan to take in a pitch about a marginalized community can add a dynamism to your article that makes it more evergreen and appealing to audiences and publications, which previously might not have prioritized engagement with the particular community.
It is also a great tool to aid media professionals in highlighting the innovative solutions that people from marginalized communities take, humanizing and empowering them in the depiction, rather than solely focusing on the challenges they face. Taking a solutions journalism approach, as a result, might simultaneously increase your chances of landing a commission and increase the quality of your representation of people from historically marginalized communities.
By increasing your pool of resources, keeping a keen eye on the ground, and considering unique angles, landing a commission on a story on marginalized communities is no mission impossible. Audiences crave content that reflects the diversity of the communities outlets seek to serve – and they’re sure to be fulfilling that supply and demand going forward.