Hey, health care journalists! It’s time to prep your story pitches for Undark magazine.
David Corcoran, Undark’s senior editor, will be one of about two dozen editors participating in the Freelance PitchFest at the annual Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Orlando, Florida, on Friday, April 21, from 1:40 to 3:50 p.m. Eastern time. On March 31, at 1 p.m. Eastern, he’ll also take part in a pre-conference live webcast for AHCJ members, “Mastering the Art of the Pitch.”
While you’re at the conference, stay through Saturday, April 22, to hear Lauren M. Whaley (Knight Science Journalism Fellow 2016-17) speak on a panel about how to “stay the course in a sea of patient activism” (#ahcjpatientactivism).
Corcoran is a veteran of the pitchfest, a kind of journalistic speed date in which freelancers are given seven minutes to present one or more story ideas to an editor, who then gives them feedback in real time. He participated in at least half a dozen such sessions at AHCJ and other conferences during his tenure as editor of Science Times, The New York Times’s weekly science section.
He has this advice for prospective pitchers:
Don’t expect a definitive yes or no during your seven-minute session. Pitch your story or stories in person, then follow up by email. And you can leave the résumés at home; briefly tell the editor about your qualifications, but attach the CV to your email pitch — along with at least two references.
Even if he likes the idea, “I’m not going to green-light anything without getting references,” said Corcoran, who is also associate director of the the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT.
A few other suggestions:
- Read Undark. This may be obvious, but Corcoran has been at pitchfests where the journalist clearly had no idea what his publication was about. “Undark is an online magazine devoted to the intersection of science and society, so we like pitches about public health, about climate change, about things that affect people in the public realm,” he said. “We’re not so interested in scientific breakthroughs.”
- Think 1,000 to 2,000 words. Undark runs a monthly long-form feature of 5,000 words or more, but its “bread and butter” is the shorter feature.
- Get right to it. Seven minutes isn’t that long.
- And whether you’re at the conference or not, the way to pitch Undark is to go to undark.org, scroll to the bottom of the homepage, and click the “Submissions” button in the lower left.
To participate in the March 31 webcast, you must be an AHCJ member. For the pitchfest, you must be registered for the conference. Online sign-ups end at 1 p.m. EDT on March 28. You can also sign up in person from 3 p.m. on April 19 through 3 p.m. on April 20.
In her panel discussion, from 4:40 to 6 p.m. on April 22, Whaley will address how to cover forces behind non-evidence-based ideas without resorting to false equivalence. Whaley is a California-based multimedia journalist covering mental illness, perinatal care, health disparities, and public health issues.