We don’t use freelancers very much, but enough that we occasionally take pitches that just come over the transom. But right now I have a voicemail account clogged with really inappropriate stuff and then I have to spend an extra half hour clearing it out, just to get to vmails I actually need to hear.
So some easy tips:
1) Read the publication you’re pitching. I don’t think this is too much to ask. (You want to review a restaurant in Philadelphia? And you didn’t notice that we don’t do restaurant reviews? Or that the paper is called the New York Observer?) I’m always horrified when people do this because I’ve been a freelancer on many occasions and thought it was offensive to telegraph to an editor that you didn’t care enough about the publication you’re pitching to sit down and read it.
1a) Don’t tell me you love the Observer, read it every week—and then pitch me something we ran last week. This is easy to avoid by reading the publication. And there’s a search bar on the Observer’s website. Make sure we haven’t already done your story.
1b) Don’t call, assume I’m Kyle Pope’s assistant, and demand (demand!) that I put you through to him directly, young lady! Or call and ask for Adam Moss. It’s hilarious for me, and I will probably impersonate you at a cocktail party at some point in the near future. (And for my own amusement, I may be inclined to give you thirty made-up excuses for why Mr. Pope is busy right now or offer to schedule an appointment for you in March of 2014.) But it’s not so hilarious for you.
2) Don’t call me, generally, if you’re pitching a story idea. My email is easily available and if you can’t articulate what you want to do in a few sentences, how are you going to articulate it in a longer piece? And cold calling is really intrusive. I’m not sure why people don’t understand this when everyone hates telemarketers. I don’t have an assistant, so you’re getting my direct line and likely interrupting something i need to be doing in order to put the paper out. Seriously: just email me.
3) If you understand who the audience for the Observer is, your pitches are more likely to be on-target. The audience is New York-based and Manhattan-centric. It’s highly affluent (median income is around $500K a year) and skews a bit older on the paper side (median age is 52) and a bit younger on the web.
4) Some things specific to the Observer that may not be true of other publications:
- We do most events coverage in-house. So if you’re pitching to cover an event, it’s unlikely that we’d assign.
- We don’t really do service journalism, unless you count 8-day-week, which is done in-house. This also means pitching products is futile unless it’s a book for review.
- Don’t pitch Q&As as features. It’s a writer’s paper and the Q&A format is an abdication of actually having to write, or present the reader with an interesting narrative. I don’t have anything against them generally, and think they work well as entry points for a lot of publications, but it doesn’t really work for us.
That’s about it. My email is espiers AT observer.com.
I’m also hiring for a couple of entry level positions. More about that shortly.