With the ubiquitous presence of the Internet, coming up with story pitches and finding out where to pitch them has never been easier. There are publications for just about any hobby, industry, quirk, fetish, subculture, and subject you could possibly think of. And resources abound for reaching them.
Unlike assignments, with pitches, you get to propose writing pay someone to do your homework
about something you choose. So think about what you would like to write about—stamp collecting? Minorities in the construction industry? Your personal experience with heartbreak? Whatever the subject is, you should be ready to research it, interview people about it and spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Of course, whatever it is you’ve thought of pitching, chances are it’s been written about before. So you have to find out where and how. Lexis-Nexis, usually available at the local library, is an excellent way to research articles on a certain subject. Google searches on the Web or archive searches on registered websites for major publications (which is usually free, although pulling up the archived stories in full may not be) can also give you a reasonable body of material. And plenty of websites with articles on that subject will pop up for free. Also check for organizations that relate to that topic, because they often list articles as well. Note: You don’t have to search for every story written on the subject since the dawn of time. Let’s say it’s a pitch about women in the construction industry. Don’t worry about the articles written on this subject that date back more than five years ago. That’s ancient history in the world of publications. You’ll probably find a good selection of stories written in major dailies and small weeklies within the past five years, but that’s where the next tip comes in.
Let’s say you find that the New York Times has published a story about the struggles of women to succeed in the construction industry. Does that mean your pitch is already taken? Absolutely not. What it means is that you read the story, get a sense of what it did cover, and shape your pitch so that it will cover a whole new angle or idea that the Times story didn’t. Did the Times story talk about women who faced discrimination and went on to own their own firms? Then think about interviewing women who don’t own their own firms, but who operate cranes or weld iron. You’ll look for women whose stories weren’t told by the Times. Even if the issue of discrimination is the same, every individual’s story is different.
Just as good literature offers new twists to old plots, so you can offer new twists to subjects of articles.
Also, consider “localizing” a story for a local publication. Journalists for smaller hometown newspapers often take a story of national interest and apply it to their hometown readers. For example, the Atkins Diet is a nation-wide trend, but you could interview local bakeries about whether they’re losing business, and pitch the story to the editor of a local publication.