You’re a reader of our website and you want to become a writer for it. First of all: Thank you! We’re excited that you’re inspired to get involved.
If you’re on this page, you’ve probably done the first essential step to pitching, which is to read some of our stories. We typically have some go-to questions about any potential Focus story, so we outlined a few to help you figure out if your idea is a good fit. After that, we included some frequently asked questions you might have for us.
If you go down the list and think your story is right for New York Focus, please send your pitch in an email to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!
Is it a story?
Every reporter eventually gets this note from an editor: That’s a topic, not a story. But the distinction can be a bit murky. One way to think about it is that a story takes a topic and applies a noteworthy action or dynamic.
Say you want to pursue a story about a climate policy. The topic would be: Here’s the policy and here’s what it does. The story would be: Here’s the policy; here’s what it does; and here’s the behind-the-scenes process of influence by which the policy came to be. Or here’s a major flaw that, oops, no one considered. Or here’s a specific instance — or a whole system’s worth of instances — of an unexpected effect the policy had. And, in all cases: Here’s why it matters.
If you aren’t quite sure that your topic is a story, but you suspect it’s noteworthy, send us a pitch anyway. If it has promise, and we have the bandwidth, we’ll work with you to develop it.
Is it investigative?
Your pitch shouldn’t sound like a press release. New York Focus stories rely on original reporting from firsthand sources, and they seek to uncover something new — usually something that someone in power doesn’t want publicized.
Maybe this means talking to a bunch of people under the thumb of a system — tenants about living under their landlord; staff members about working for their boss; aid recipients about trying to get government benefits — and finding a pattern that tells us what it’s really like. Maybe it means getting leaked documents or filing FOIL requests to expose government communications the senders would really prefer to keep private. Maybe it means drawing connections from campaign donations and lobbying efforts to government contracts and legislation.
Is it independent?
News is created by people and those people have perspectives, but that’s no excuse for reporting that isn’t fair. That means making an honest effort to vet our sources carefully and scrutinize views on all sides. This is a key tenet of our independence: We’re seeking to uncover the truth, not push an agenda.
Now that that’s settled, here are a few questions you might have for us.
How do I pitch?
Send an email to [email protected] with a description of your idea and how you’ll go about reporting it. Tell us what you know already about the subject, what else you still need to find out, and what kind of sourcing you’ll use to nail the story. If there’s been prior coverage, describe it briefly and explain why your approach will bring something new. If it’s time-sensitive because of an upcoming event or other media competition, let us know.
Put the word “pitch” and a brief phrase describing the topic in the subject line.
How much do you pay?
Our standard rate is $800 for a story. On a case-by-case basis, we may pay more for a big, intensive investigative project. We may pay less for something short and newsy, a brief follow-up to a previous piece, or the rare opinion piece.
How soon should I expect to hear back?
Within a few days, especially if the story is time-sensitive. If it’s been a while and you think we missed your email, please don’t hesitate to follow up. You don’t need to apologize for doing so; you aren’t being rude for wanting to write a timely article.
Are simultaneous submissions okay?
They sure aren’t preferable. We strongly prefer pitches that are exclusive to us, and if we’re going to decline, we’ll aim to do so in a timely manner so you can take it somewhere else. If you need an expedited response so you can quickly pitch elsewhere, just say so in your email — it’s a far better practice than pitching multiple outlets at once.
What’s the editing process like?
One of our two editors will be your primary person. Your main editor will be your point of contact and provide overarching comments about structure, scope, and any other big-picture concerns. They’ll do a detailed edit for you to review in Google Docs, at least once, though some stories require multiple rounds of edits. Once you’ve worked through a revision with your primary editor, the other editor will do a read and submit final edits and questions. Depending on the story, we may also assign an independent fact checker or submit the draft to outside legal review. You’ll have sign-off on anything that goes beyond a copy edit.
Do you publish opinion pieces?
Occasionally, but the bar is high: Your angle better be super sharp, your analysis really novel. If you feel strongly that you have an important argument that can only get its best consideration published at New York Focus, send it over. If it would fit better in newspaper op-ed pages, send it to one of those.
Have more questions? Just send us an email and we’ll get back to you. One more time, it’s [email protected].
Thanks again for your interest. We’ll keep an eye out.