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 Slate 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 here or elsewhere, 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 surprising, witty, persuasive arguments. 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 encourage 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.
Do distill your idea into a pitch, even if you have a full draft already written. If you happen to have a draft ready, feel free to attach it, but 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 and find the editor within each section—News & Politics, Culture, Human Interest, Business, and Technology—who is best suited to consider your idea. (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. As a general rule, and if the story isn’t too timely, it’s best to wait about a week 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. We unfortunately aren’t always able to respond to every pitch. If after a week or so you haven’t heard back, feel free to take it elsewhere.
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.
To give you a sense of the kind of pitches that will catch our eyes, here is one recently from a freelancer that eventually became a Slate story:
In St. John’s, Newfoundland, a provincial fishing town roughly midway between Montreal and Greenland, the mermen began to appear in the summer of 2017. Sunning themselves on rocks by the harbor, or on the graffiti-strewn pylons of an abandoned waterfront factory, they caused quite a stir; one merman even ventured into a local tavern where he was spotted splayed out on the bar smoking a long cigarette. Soon a photo shoot was organized, and the Merb’y calendar—b’y is Newfoundland-speak for dude—was born.
It turns out that the Merb’ys did not suddenly emerge from the sea, but from the head of Hasan Hai, a Pakistani-Newfoundlander who works at a St. John’s tech start-up and as a bartender on the side. Several years ago, Hai, a gentle giant with tattoos, shaved head and 12-inch mane of facial hair, started the Newfoundland Labrador Beard and Mustache Club, a social organization, he says, that has evolved into something akin to a woke Elks Lodge—”the intent is to promote healthy and non-traditional expressions of masculinity, to break free of those dated stereotypes,” he told me recently. The bearded Merb’y models are mostly members of the club and their friends.
As skin-baring calendars go, the Merb’ys version has revealed significant demand for a chest-hair-and-pot-belly alternative to the busty-women-in-bikinis genre. The hope was to raise a thousand dollars for a local charity. The viral calendars ended up netting $300,000 in the first year through sales to 37 countries, funds that were donated to a sexual assault and domestic violence initiative. Since their first calendar debuted two years ago, the Beard and Mustache Club mission has rapidly expanded. They run fundraisers throughout the year and will soon partner with the play Come From Away to expand their reach outside Newfoundland. The Merb’ys impact has even extended into academia: they were recently included in a series of papers investigating the anthropological significance of the mermaid trend and its nexus to gender.
Hai told me that some of the club members have found dressing up as a merman to be a cathartic experience, so I’d hope to capture some of that in the story. I’d also include the story of Hai’s transformation from a man “unable to understand or express my emotions in a healthy way,” he said, to being comfortable with vulnerability—a journey sparked years ago when he was called out for inappropriate behavior.
Please refer below for the relevant editor for your pitch.
Sam Adams (television)
Allegra Frank (music, video games)
Forrest Wickman (movies)
Books (arguments and literary essays, please—we are not looking for reviews)
Laura Bennett (reported features, personal essays)
Jeffrey Bloomer (all features, essays, work, sex and relationships)
Rebecca Onion (history, family)
Josh Keating (international, foreign policy)
Susan Matthews (news, politics, law, gender, features)
Tom Scocca (politics and policy)
Jeremy Stahl (jurisprudence)
Torie Bosch (for Future Tense, or stories on the policy, ethics, and social implications of tech, and for guidelines on pitching Future Tense Fiction)
Jonathan Fischer (big tech, cities, media/internet culture)
Jaime Green (Future Tense/emerging technology effects on public policy and society; currently on book leave)
Health and Science