A session covering magazine and feature writing highlighted Auburn University’s Journalism Day on Friday.
Editorial consultant of Society South Magazine, Kay Acton; assistant editor of Mobile Bay Magazine, Mallory Boykin; managing editor of Food Network Magazine, Maria Baugh; and director of sports of Alabama Media Group, Roy Johnson were the session’s speakers. Students were eager to hear advice from industry professionals.
Magazine Journalism Pitch Tips
Knowing how to pitch a successful story is critical for people who want to work in the magazine industry. According to Boykin, an Auburn University graduate, “Be persistent, follow up, don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Boykin said. “If a pitch gets rejected, ask why. That way you can improve and build that relationship with people on staff and that way they know your name. Have a good attitude, be willing to make whatever changes the editor suggests to your story.”
Baugh offered tips for students on how to get the ball rolling with their story ideas. “I think what you want to do is start with someone who is at a more, maybe an associate editor level or an assistant or an associate editor level. Start and contact that person, figure out their email, figure out how to reach them, craft your pitch,” Baugh said.
Not knowing the content of the magazine is one of the worst mistakes that a young writer can make. “Make sure you know the magazine inside and out, so you don’t pitch some silly ideas that would never run in that magazine, because there’s probably no faster way to get you off of that short list than that,” Baugh said.
Broadly focused pitches aren’t always successful. According to Acton, pitches should be tightly-focused. “Pitch it very tightly,” Acton said. “…because of the way that people read and consume publications now, your focus needs to be tightly-detailed and pitched.”
The craft of writing is the most important thing for writers to understand. Johnson got back to basics with his advice to students. “One of the things that I preach often is just learn the craft,” Johnson said. “If you are a football fan or if you are a sports fan or if you ever go to practice or you are an athlete, you know a lot of mundane things happen at practice. A lot of football (players) tackling dummies, jumping over sticks and things like that because they are building a foundation for what happens on Saturdays. So, as writers, learn the foundation of the craft.
This spot brief was written for the JRNL2310 Reporting course at Auburn University in fall 2014. Image courtesy of Katie’s iPhone.