So, you’d like to write for Slate—that’s great! If you haven’t worked with us before, here are a few pointers on how to craft a pitch and capture our attention.
Do read the Slate site to get a sense of the magazine’s voice and examples of pieces that have been done in a similar vein.
Do Google your idea. It may seem like a no-brainer, but often we reject a pitch because the writer’s argument doesn’t feel fresh or original. A brief search for other articles on your proposed subject can go a long way to figuring out what’s been written about it, so you can avoid pitching something that feels familiar. This research might also help inform your take—perhaps someone has indeed made your point, but you see a fundamental flaw in their argument, or disagree with their conclusions. That’s one way to frame your pitch!
Do make a strong argument if you are pitching a story that is in our wheelhouse: opinion and analysis. Slate is known for making smart, witty, persuasive statements. The best pitches are clear and concise, providing us with at least one or two specific examples that help solidify your thesis. You don’t necessarily need to have answers to all the points your piece might raise, but we do like to know that you’ve done a bit of research to help formulate your pitch, or can outline what resources you would use to flesh out your story. We particularly appreciate ideas that don’t take conventional wisdom for granted. We also happily consider pitches for reported pieces or dispatches, and much of the above still applies. In these cases, also tell us what insights your reporting will help uncover or crystallize.
Avoid sending complete drafts of your piece—it’s easier for us to envision and work with you on an as-yet-unwritten story that might fit Slate. (We also just don’t have enough time to read full pieces.) If you’d really like to send a draft, however, please make sure you still include a full pitch describing the piece in the body of the email.
Avoid vague, one- or two-sentence pitches on a topic, as in, “I would like to write about X because of Y news peg.” A short paragraph that captures your argument will be more effective.
Do specify what section of the site you’re pitching—Brow Beat, Health/Science, Human Interest, or, more generally, politics, culture. (For details on which editors to pitch to for what topics, see below.)
Do include a bit about your background in the form of a one- to two-sentence bio. If you can, please provide any relevant published work that’s written in a voice similar to Slate’s. If not, writing from a personal blog or anywhere else is fine. We do not need a complete CV.
Do be mindful if you pitch your idea to multiple publications. We try to reply to everyone in a timely manner, typically within one to two days. As a general rule, and if the story isn’t too timely, it’s best to wait that amount of time before sharing the pitch with another publication. If you do decide to cast a wide net, it’s always helpful to let us know ahead of time so we can respond accordingly.
Avoid sending your pitch to another Slate editor if the first editor passes. We are in close and constant touch with each other and frequently the decision to pass is not made alone. We unfortunately aren’t always able to respond to every pitch in a timely manner; if after a few days you haven’t heard back, feel free to take it elsewhere.
To give you a sense of the kind of pitch that will catch our eyes, here’s one recently from a freelancer that eventually became a Slate story:
I’m writing a pitch for a 1500-2000 word piece that sits at the intersection of culture and health/science and responds to the recent New York Times Magazine story titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”, which was discussed on this week’s Culture Gabfest. In the piece, I would like to combine my own experiences seeking treatment for anxiety and depression over the past twenty years with relevant academic and popular research to discuss how the NYT story is part of two related trends in psychology/psychiatry. The first trend is the move to conceptualize anxiety as something distinct from other conditions with which it is frequently comorbid, such as depression and OCD. This is evident in both classification criteria (and consequent changes in the frequency of diagnosis) and the types of treatment pursued. The brings me to the second trend, which is what I refer to as the cognitive-behavioral boom.
I have relied on medication to manage my mental illness, which falls somewhere in the anxiety/depression realm, for many years, mostly with great success. However, in the past several years I have noticed a marked change in how medical and mental health professionals address my condition, mostly having to do with the popularity of CBT. It is now almost impossible to seek help with my medications without getting lectured about how I should be pursuing CBT and its related therapies—treatment routes that I have, in fact, attempted multiple times to no avail. I have even had a cognitive behavioral therapist tell me outright that If I want to “get better” I have to “get off those medications and put in the work.” This is the main point of the piece: that CBT has gained popularity not only because it is seen as effective, but also because it is framed as the virtuous path to dealing with mental illness. It may be true that CBT is effective for people who experience anxiety as discrete fears that they can find the root of and talk back to (about 50% of people who undergo CBT, give or take, depending on the study). However, a good portion of anxiety sufferers experience anxiety as just one facet of a complex and nebulous set of conditions that, for frustratingly elusive reasons, responds best to pharmacological interventions. For us, the increasing valorization of CBT and the trend toward simplifying and isolating anxiety as a condition serve to further stigmatize our struggles.
Here are editors to whom you can email your pitch:
Forrest Wickman (movies, music)
Sam Adams (television)
Dan Kois (books)
Recurring features (Our One Fight, My Parents’ Work-Life Balance, etc.)
Laura Bennett (reported features and personal essays)
Dan Kois (parenting and family, education)
Bryan Lowder (LGBTQ issues/culture)
Mark Joseph Stern (LGBTQ issues/culture)
Allison Benedikt (politics and policy)
Josh Keating (international, foreign policy)
Jeremy Stahl (jurisprudence)
Torie Bosch (emerging technology effects on public policy and society)
Jonathan Fischer (big tech, cities, media/internet culture)
Jonathan Fischer (jobs, energy)
Health and Science
Slate Plus Academy