When I started out as a freelance science writer, I assumed that my entire workload would come from the metropolitan daily newspapers or major international science magazines. Those were the places where I read about science, so I figured they were all there was to be experienced in the world of science journalism.
Barely a decade later, the landscape of science journalism and science writing has changed profoundly. Where once the metropolitan newspapers all had a science writer, health writer, tech writer and maybe even environment writer, now the newspaper landscape is almost devoid of any of these.
But the online science writing world has exploded. Now every science magazine has a website featuring separate content, and there is a plethora of online science magazines from the generalist to the specialised.
In recognition of this, there was an entire breakout session at the recent 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco (which I attended with the support of the Copyright Agency’s Ignite Career Fund – thanks CAL!) that was dedicated solely to the rise of digital science magazines. There were also two pitching sessions that gave freelances the chance to meet and pitch to editors.
I’m sure most people will know about the main science magazines – Scientific American, Nature, New Scientist, Discover, Undark, Science, Popular Science, Wired, Aeon etc – I wanted to report on some of the less well-known publications, or ones you might not have considered pitching to.
Here is as comprehensive a list as I could put together of the publications at the WCSJ2017 (and others I have come across), and their pitching requests and guidelines. While most of these are based in the US or UK, their content is globally-focused, so for Australian writers, this is an opportunity to make the most of your geographic location and tell the stories other writers can’t reach:
They publish both as a blog and in the magazine (magazine pays better!), and their very brief pitching guidelines are here. Ross Anderson is the Senior Editor who looks after science and technology. There are some great examples of successful pitches to The Atlantic in The Open Notebook’s Pitch Database.
The Verge is an offshoot of Vox Media, and describes itself as “an ambitious multimedia effort founded in 2011 to examine how technology will change life in the future for a massive mainstream audience.”
In the pre-WCSJ pitch session email, ccience editor Elizabeth Lopatto wrote that she’s interested in how science interacts with the way most people live, but that writers should orient their pitches toward a general interest audience. She’s also keen on investigations, voicey writing and topics that aren’t straight science.
Their pitch guidelines are here.
Sapiens is a online magazine about anthropology, “with a mission to bring anthropology—the study of being human—to the public, to make a difference in how people see themselves and the people around them. Our objective is to deepen your understanding of the human experience by exploring exciting, novel, thought-provoking, and unconventional ideas.”
According to managing editor Amanda Mascarelli, about one-quarter of their content is provided by freelances. When I spoke to her during the Pop-up pitching session, she said they welcomed submissions from Australia, and at the moment were particularly keen on pitches around biological anthropology and archaeology, and also linguistics.
Their pitching guidelines for journalists are here.
bioGraphic is a digital science magazine from the California Academy of Sciences “created to showcase both the wonder of nature and the most promising approaches to sustaining life on Earth. We hope our stories will spark conversations, shift perspectives, and inspire new ideas, helping to not only shed new light on our planet’s most pressing environmental challenges, but also—ultimately—to solve them.”
Their submission guidelines are here.
Hakai is a digital science magazine exploring the intersection between coastal science and societies. Given Australia’s abundance of coastline, this would be a great magazine for Australian writers to take a look at.
Their submission guidelines are here.
Ensia is a US-based magazine “presenting new perspectives on environmental challenges and solutions to a global audience.” They cover a huge range of topics in the environmental space, and are absolutely lovely to write for. My most recent story for them looked at how South Australia has managed to launch the world’s biggest solar thermal power plant and the world’s biggest lithium ion battery, despite the Federal political environment favouring coal, so they’re interested in relevant stories from all over the world.
Their submission guidelines are here.
Genome is a print and online publication looking at personalised medicine and the genomic revolution that makes it possible. It’s aimed at consumers, patients, family, caregivers and healthcare professionals.
“At Genome magazine, we tell compelling, in-depth, well-researched stories about the people affected by chronic and life-altering diseases, as well as the efforts to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat those conditions,” according to their website.
They don’t have submission guidelines on their website, but here’s the advice they provided in a handout at the conference:
– put the word ‘pitch’ in the email subject line
– write a few sentences about what the story or research study is about and why it’s a big deal
– send at least three relevant writing clips with your pitch
– magazine pitches go to firstname.lastname@example.org
– they like to including the human voice of patients, so writers should have experience interviewing patients as well as experts.
– they’re not chasing news the way other outlets are, but are hopefully writing about things that aren’t getting picked up anywhere else.
– interested in range of topics, from genetic research and tech to ethical, legal and social issues.
JSTOR Daily is an online magazine that essentially looks behind the science news to the bigger picture. As their website states; “We publish weekly long-form feature articles that explore the sometimes-hidden depths of newsy topics. In addition, our daily blog posts explore parallels between existing lines of study and the headlines of the day.”
They’re after both blog post and feature pitches, and their submission guidelines are here.
Science News is a print and online science magazine covering the latest scientific research across all fields, published by the Society for Science & the Public. They don’t have submission guidelines, but at the pop-up pitch session, said they were after non-journal, non-press release stories. A pitch should be 4-5 sentences, outline what the significance is of the story. Email is email@example.com.
Spectrum is a digital magazine covering news, analysis and expert opinion on autism research. In particular, they have a section called Deep Dive, which is feature stories, mostly written by freelance science journalists, that “delve deep into social/research trends within the autism community”. These are 2500-4000 words in length, well paid, and are often syndicated to other outlets such as The Atlantic and The Guardian.
According to information handed out at the pop-up pitch session, the best deep dives “present a clear argument, supported by careful research and interviews with multiple scientists and families … Ideally these stories blend emerging research and human experience on the spectrum.”
Spectrum doesn’t have submission guidelines on their site but the team’s details are here.
Want more? Check out the WCSJ2017 page for the Power Pitch Session (http://wcsj2017.org/session/power-pitch-2017/), or the Facebook group for the unofficial Pitch Slam pop-up at the conference (https://www.facebook.com/events/119437952084200/).