"Freelancing is the new entry-level job"
Don't mind me, just dropping the 25th edition of the Missed Pitches newsletter.
Welcome to Missed Pitches, a home for rejected ideas. If you’re a writer looking to give a home to your previously rejected story ideas, this is for you. Submit your rejected pitches using this Google Form. Give me a follow on Twitter at @MissedPitches for updates and shout-outs. Support this newsletter; buy me a cup of coffee! // rungomez
My Q&A with Meira Gebel
Best of freelance Twitter
I interrupt your regular programming with this Q&A interview with Meira Gebel on her 2,700-word piece for Business Insider on journalism school, freelance and how taking this idea from pitch to publishing.
For some background, Meira openly pitched her idea on Twitter back in April looking to gauge interest in her story idea. The tweet went viral and it sparked conversations from many other journalists who could relate to Meira’s experience.
At that time, I reached out to her offering her to have a Q&A with me after her piece was published. I wanted to know about her process for taking this idea from concept to product. Meira was very kind to answer my questions to feature in this newsletter.
Meira and I corresponded for weeks and weeks, and we agreed to run this Q&A when the piece finally published. Just a heads up, this piece is behind a paywall but if you are willing to spare $1 to read it I guarantee it is worth it.
My Q&A with Meira Gebel
Missed Pitches: Tell me about your pitch. How did you pitch your story?
Meira: Here’s the condensed original pitch: The goal of journalism school is to prepare students to be journalists. We are taught storytelling skills, but not survival nor financial skills.
The craft and the hustle is often romanticized, while the realities of layoffs are seldom touched on. The only mention of freelancing I remember from Columbia was a one-off session on how to pitch our masters projects. And as more media jobs face the chopping block, more journalists are turning to freelancing to survive, proving how essential it is to make freelance education part of the curriculum of all j-schools.
I’ve been a freelancer for nearly three years, and everything I know about the industry I taught myself and learned from other veteran freelancers. And I feel frustrated — frustrated that the institution I learned so much from, like the value of ethical reporting, failed to prepare me for this path as a journalist, and oftentimes ignored freelancing as a possibility outright.
I believe, because of this, journalism schools are failing their students. For this story, while it will be a reflection of my own experience, I would also speak with freelancers who attended j-school about what their institution did or did not prepare them for, as well as industry experts who can talk about the history of journalism school.
Missed Pitches: Why did you want to do this story?
Meira: As a journalism school graduate, I felt frustrated that there was nothing in the curriculum to prepare me for life as a freelance journalist. I mean, over half of journalists are freelancers, so why do institutions ignore it and push dwindling newsroom internships on graduates?
Before even thinking about pitching this story, I talked to several of my classmates who are also freelancers about what we wish we were taught. The more I talked about it, the more upset I got and felt like these institutions are failing young journalism students who are entering an already precarious industry with little knowledge on how to navigate it without being attached to a publication.
Missed Pitches: How many places turned it down before Business Insider picked it up?
Meira: I pitched the story to half a dozen media-focused publications (think CJR, Poytner, Nieman, etc) in February and was either ghosted or sent a boilerplate rejection email. After my tweet about the story, I then pitched it to four other outlets before Insider reached out and offered to pick it up.
Missed Pitches: Tell me how you landed the piece on Business Insider. Who was your point of contact? And what was the process like?
Meira: I’ve had a working relationship with Insider and its editors ever since my fellowship ended in 2019. The global editor in chief saw my tweet and reached out to me via DM.
Missed Pitches: What are some of the highlights of your story? What did you learn?
Meira: For this story, I spoke with over three dozen freelance reporters who went to journalism school, as well as professors and current students. Obviously not all journalism schools across the country outright ignore freelancing education.
Many institutions have a course or two on how to be a freelancer that are very thorough (I looked at several syllabuses). But I was still overwhelmed by the number of grads and current students who reached out to me saying they felt cheated by their programs because they didn’t offer any sort of information on freelancing as a career path.
I learned many freelancers have considered furthering their education in academia or entering entirely different industries because they didn’t have any guidance on how to navigate the journalism industry while in college.
Wired - Pitch a profile, hot take, short feature or a deep dive to Saira Mueller at email@example.com
The Guardian - Pitch ideas about policing, climate, voting rights or news features to Ankita Rao at firstname.lastname@example.org
Economic Hardship Reporting Project (Pitch Guide) - Pitch essays tackling economic inequality in the U.S. across a range of topics to Deborah Jian Lee at email@example.com
Empire - Pitch a newsy, forward-facing idea you think might make for good a story in the Take 20 section of Empire to John Nugent at firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Insider - Pitch first-person pieces about money - crypto, stocks, small business setting up to Jack Sommers at email@example.com
Best of Freelance Twitter
NOTE: This space is dedicated to featuring one worthy Twitter account that provides an invaluable service to the freelance community.
⚡️ Follow the Society of Freelance Journalists at @freelancesoc because it promotes training and resources for freelance journalists around the world.
via @caleweissman (May 27): hello, freelancers with business reporting chops: modern retail is looking for some contract writers for at least the summer. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with some past clips and we can talk details!
via @barry (May 26): Here is your periodic reminder that you, the talented yet underemployed freelancer, should pitch your good story to us, Defector.com. We pay decently and our editors are very nice. Pitch Guide.
via @ClimateTracking (May 27): Opportunity! Pitch us a Food, Farming, and Climate Story! Pitch us a story focusing on food policy challenges in your country & how farmers see their future in the ever-changing world around them. Pitch Guide.
via @crawf34 (May 27): attention experienced writers. if you're a US-based freelance writer who has some fun timeless/evergreen ideas around the intersection of sneaker culture, sports and entertainment, please pitch me and let's work together
via @BasitMahmood91 (May 21): Always keen to hear from writers and journalists from underrepresented and working class backgrounds. Pitch me your ideas and stories at email@example.com
WAMU/DCist is hiring a Web-First Editor - Washington, D.C.
Gizmodo is hiring a Staff Writer - New York
Vogue is hiring a Freelance Sub-Editor - London
Wired is hiring a Product Writer and Reviewer - Remote
Reviewed is hiring a Home Staff Writer - Massachusetts
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