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 in a timely manner; 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:
I write to see if you might be interested in an essay on a spate of adventure films that came out in the 1930s about airmail pilots: “Air Mail” (1932), “Night Flight” (1933), “Ceiling Zero” (1936), “Flight From Glory” (1937), and “Only Angels Have Wings” (1939). At the time, airmail pilots often had to fly in dangerous conditions to deliver mail on time and as such, accidents were common. These postal workers took on a certain kind of mystique as risk-taking rogues, and Hollywood soon took notice. In the 1930s, capitalizing on the fame of airmail pilot Charles Lindbergh, the industry released a series of sexy thrillers about the dashing men who risked their lives to deliver mail. “Only Angels Have Wings” starred Cary Grant as one such daredevil airmail pilot who braves the treacherous path across the Andes Mountains to make sure packages are delivered on time (even if it means leaving Rita Hayworth behind).
However, these movies glamorized the very conditions that actual airmail pilots were fighting against in the courts; it was at this time that the first professional union of pilots (ALPA) formed to push back against the predatory mail delivery contracts that forced pilots to fly in unsafe conditions, a practice known as “pilot pushing.” I think this essay could be, amongst other things, a timely warning against letting postal workers operate as deified tireless public servants (rather than workers) in our cultural imagination.
Abdelfattah Abusrour, founder of a cultural centre inside Aida refugee camp, describes his daily situation: From within, Bethlehem is locked down due to the threat of COVID-19. From without, it is encircled by the checkpoints of the Israeli military. Twenty miles away, in volatile Hebron, the head of a small Palestinian NGO tells me how he has been delivering food parcels to families suffering amid food shortages—but now, shut up at home as all Palestinians face a fourteen-day curfew, he’s worried for families left behind. With poor medical infrastructure, COVID-19 threatens to rip through the fragile communities living on occupation’s brink.
Yet to many of the men and women I’ve spoken to, from a UN official, to a representative of the Palestinian Medical Relief society, to a Christian farmer and community leader, life under lockdown feels remarkably normal. Restrictions on movement, restrictions on association, overshadowed by fear. Many can still remember the monthslong lockdowns that marked the Intifadas. As countries across the Western world begin to shut down themselves, perhaps this a time to reflect on how this is the reality of life for thousands of Palestinians. This piece will not only shine a light on the potential devastation that COVID-19 could cause to an oppressed society, but will seek to show how our new reality, shocking as it is, has been a Palestinian reality for years.
Please refer below for the relevant editor for your pitch.
Forrest Wickman (movies)
Allegra Frank (music)
Sam Adams (television)
Marissa Martinelli (books, fiction)
Seth Maxon (books, non-fiction)
Laura Bennett (reported features, personal essays)
Jeffrey Bloomer (features, screeds, sex, relationships, downtime)
Susan Matthews (politics, gender, features)
Tom Scocca (politics and policy)
Josh Keating (international, foreign policy—please no pitches on hyperlocal issues)
Aviva Shen (jurisprudence)
Jeremy Stahl (jurisprudence)
Torie Bosch (Future Tense/emerging technology effects on public policy and society)
Jonathan Fischer (big tech, cities, media/internet culture)
Jaime Green (Future Tense/emerging technology effects on public policy and society)
Health and Science
Slate Plus Academy