Video recording, resources, and tips from the CASW Connector Chat on Wednesday, January 10, 2024

On January 10, CASW Connector hosted a Chat discussing the best practices for pitching freelance stories, including how to structure your pitch, how to approach new editors, the art of the soft pitch, and much more. The panelists answered attendees’ questions, and participants discussed specific issues about pitching in breakout groups. The Chat also included a brief demo of CASW Connector, a library of science writing resources – including opportunities for pitching and publishing.

This event was facilitated by Connector managing editor Kate Travis, and the panelists were: 

  • Robin Lloyd, freelance writer and editor, CASW president, and creator and curator of Science media outlets to pitch
  • Victoria Jaggard, deputy editor, health and science, The Washington Post
  • Esther Landhuis, freelance science & health journalist
  • Debbie Ponchner, editor, Knowable en español, and CASW board member

Below, you can watch a recording of the Chat and read through resources curated by Robin Lloyd, as well as other links and tips provided during the session.

For questions, contact the CASW Connector team at And sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about future Connector Chats!

Resources on pitching, curated by Robin Lloyd



  • The Science Writers’ Handbook, by the Writers of SciLance, edited by Thomas Hayden and Michelle Nijhuis, Da Capo Press (2013)
    • “Finding Ideas,” by Emily Sohn 
    • “Making the pitch,” by Thomas Hayden


Additional resources on pitching

Tips from the session

Pitching mechanics

  • Metaphor for pitching: A pitch is like a bouillon cube for stock: It is a starting point that is tasty on its own, and could go in many directions. “Our job with a pitch is to invent that brief, dense promise of a delicious dish — or, story.”
  • A recipe for a pitch:
    • Introduce yourself (one sentence)
    • Short version of the story (200-300 words based on what you’ve reported so far)
    • How you’ll tell the story and why you’re the person to write it (short paragraph)
  • Three questions that editors want you to answer:
    • “Why now?”
    • “Why us?” (e.g., Why this publication?)
    • “Why should people care?”
  • At end of pitch, make sure to “sell” (mention) any access to sources for this story that you have that others won’t have.
  • Make it clear in your pitch when you have an exclusive (e.g., a story that nobody else could do!) or a timely story.
  • A lot of the success of pitching is finding the correct outlet and tailoring pitches.
  • Shorter stories can/should still retain elements of narrative work: tension, scenes, characters, “inciting incidents.”
  • For features, news pegs don’t have to be as solid/immediate, but you can mention that X topic has been in the news lately or some other way that your topic is timely.
    • For example: Congress is set to vote on a matter related to this topic, or some new regulation related to this topic is set to take effect in the coming months.
  • Don’t send finished stories to an editor, as they’ll want to shape the story for their outlet.
    • With work you’ve written for a class or in other contexts, pitch the story as if you haven’t written it yet. But use your reporting to develop a pitch that is targeted for a specific outlet.

Building relationships with editors

  • At first, pitching can be very difficult and involve a lot of unpaid work, but once relationships are established, ideas can take shape in conversation with editors.
  • If a pitch is rejected, ask for feedback and use that to inform story development and future pitches for the same editor.
    • Example reply: “Thanks for getting back to me and for the prompt response. Can you please give me some tips on what you’re looking for in a strong pitch and ways I can improve?”
  • Ask editors if they’ll have a short phone conversation with you; informational interviews can help you get a sense of what they’re looking for and what they can offer.
  • Editors are really busy — but also hungry for new ideas, writers, and perspectives.
  • With cold pitches, you can start with a “soft pitch”: Email a question and a description of your background/expertise to get an idea of how receptive the editor is to pitching to  start the conversation.
  •  A good idea is a good idea, regardless of your career status or expertise.

Pitching to new markets

  • Key takeaway: Just do it!
  • Many editors in English-language outlets are open to non-native English speakers, especially if journalists are pitching content that a U.S.-based writer couldn’t do (thanks to access to location, important source, etc).
  • International writers can also co-byline stories with staff reporters

Other tips

  • Reverse-engineer stories you like. Consider how they might have gotten the idea, chose their angle, and pitched the story to an editor.
  • When you have a lot of research and pre-reporting material, it can be helpful to organize into “spark files” – buckets based on story ideas.
  • To find novel stories, call up sources you know and/or people in the field you’re interested in and ask them what’s new, interesting, and exciting to them.
  • Stories that seem interesting to you or your non–science writer friends and family members are likely also interesting to non-scientist readers.
  • Think about your story like a fiction story, one that has a narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end.