Saturday 1 November 2014

EXPERIENCE: Pitching to The Conversation

Have you ever heard about 'The Conversation'? It's a different style of news website - where the news is written by academics for free publication.  The tag line is 'academic rigour, journalistic flair' and that pretty much says it all.  Academics write about what's happening right now, by reporting on their own research progress, explaining what's happening in the 'real world' through an academic lens, or providing informed commentary.

To write for The Conversation all you need is to be associated with an academic institution of some sort.  And seeing as I'm associated with an academic institution and interested in writing for a general audience, I thought I would give writing for The Conversation a go.

It's called 'pitching an idea'.  It's a simple process where you provide a short summary of an article you want to see published - either written by you or someone else.  I've had a go at 'pitching' two stories, both related to the Renewable Energy Target, and so far I haven't had any luck.  But I'm not deterred!

In pitching my article ideas and receiving feedback from editors I have learned a few things that might help you out if you also intend to pitch a story:
  1. Your article should not be time critical.  There is only a small editorial base and so some stories may be backed up for some time, so it helps to have a flexible time line.
  2. You should be the expert in your article area.  If there's an academic out there closer to the issue The Conversation will have them write an article preferentially to you.  Experts are experts, after all.
  3. Articles based on your own research may have better success than articles based on general commentary (see 2 above).
  4. The Conversation looks for article diversity - if there have been articles about your subject area recently you might want to hold off before pitching your idea.  The audience does not want subject fatigue!
  5. PhD candidates cannot submit a story on their own, but they can pitch an idea.  The Conversation wants to make sure anything published is top quality, so look for someone to collaborate with!