Journalism: Freelancing

Pitch an article to a popular political magazine editor


Editors want to publish new knowledge and refreshing perspectives. Do you have something new to offer to the discussions that are happening in the political world?

The Exercise

Find a newly published research article. Pitch the story for publication on the blog site 538 or The Atlantic. For this exercise, you are an aspiring freelance journalist.

Task 1: Find an article

Find an article that is something new that will potentially garner public attention, but is not already being covered by major news outlets.

Task 2: Write a pitch

A pitch provides the flavor of the story, and a brief description of why the publisher should be interested. Identify reasons that the article is novel, timely, relevant, and appropriate to the audience of the venue.

If appropriate, create a list of sources for interviews, and write a list of questions for your interviewees. Include reasons why you are qualified to write an article.

Guiding principles:

  • Interest the audience immediately, so start with the punchline.
  • Include a rationale on the timeliness of the article.

Answer why the subject you’re writing about is novel or of interest to the audience.

Task 3: Brainstorm titles

A title can make or break whether the story gets read by the audience or picked up by other news sources. Keep the type of media where your article will be featured in mind, as well as your audience. Brainstorm ten possible titles for your article. Remember, these tiles may have different uses, such as one for Twitter and another destined for the website.

The Deliverable

The pitch should be brief and clear: 150 words, or 3-4 sentences. A pitch is not a full article. The deliverable should allow the editor to clearly answer these questions:

  • What is the significance of the result, and how is it interesting to the audience? Is it relevant to the journal’s audience?
  • Is their previous data on the subject, or is it really a new result? Do you think the results are sufficiently sound to report on widely?
  • Is there already interest on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit? Is it the kind of article that could be shared by Facebook or Twitter users?

Sample Deliverable

Title: Dangerous Love Stories: Pop Culture’s Connection to Violence in Personal Relationships

Article Title: When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance


Author Julie Beck begs the question in her blog article “When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance” what does romance truly mean? How do we as individuals draw the line and how do we represent and celebrate—or perhaps resist the conventions of—the love story? Using examples from American pop culture from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Game of Thrones (as well as songs from the last five decades), Beck tracks the conception of romance and how, in the context of recent Hollywood and political backlash against sexual harassment, this idea of romance has become dangerous, pervading the minds of the general public and influencing the way in which individuals interact with one another. Beck’s article calls for greater study and access to a wider audience; the article’s material is not only contemporary, it also offers necessary insights into the ways in which widespread culture influences varying aspects of modern life and different age groups, genders, and social stations.

Beck’s blog article has not yet reached a wider audience beyond The Atlantic’s blog section (located also on Facebook). The story is breaking and extends far beyond its time, but raises current debates regarding personal relationships and conceptions of truth. 

Additional tasks:

A professional in the field of freelance journalism may also perform these tasks:

  • Identifying stories from press releases and conferences
  • Interviewing sources
  • Conducting research for reporting

Skills used to perform this task:

  • Clear, written communication
  • Knowledge of trends in political world
  • Writing concisely
  • Interviewing
  • Project management
  • People management
  • Editing

Skills needed in journalism careers:

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Communication skills

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Simulation author – Rebecca Jordan, PhD candidate