How to Pitch Stories to Audubon
For more than a century Audubon magazine has used explanatory and advocacy journalism, as well as stunning original photography and illustration, to celebrate the joy and wonder of birds and to inform its readers about the natural world, inspire them to care passionately about that world, and motivate them to take action on its behalf.
What kinds of stories does Audubon assign to freelancers?
Our editors are interested in shorter pieces that generally run fewer than 1,200 words for both our quarterly print magazine and website. We also consider a wide range of freelance pitches for longer pieces, from in-depth investigations and trailblazer profiles to package features and reported or personal essays; these usually range from around 1,500 words to 4,000 words, and our sweet spot is about 3,000 words. And we’ll consider data visualizations and other multimedia ideas.
What makes a good Audubon article?
Bring us timely stories with compelling angles and narratives and unique perspectives. We’re interested in stories about birds and birding, of course, but also those that feature underrepresented voices and communities, and that bring fresh angles on technological innovations, environmental challenges, policy, economics, development, activism, or culture—and how they interact with conservation.
We’re looking for a broad range of stories, including:
- Investigations that explore existing and emerging problems and the people going above and beyond to solve them. Examples here, here, and here.
- Exceptional advocacy journalism. Examples here, here, and here.
- Essays that use the writer’s experience to provide insight into bird- and conservation-related issues. Examples here, here, and here.
- Profiles of fascinating people or remarkable collaborations making a significant mark in conservation, science, or culture. Examples here, here, and here.
- Timely news articles with a unique bird, conservation, or environmental angle—including stories about innovative work within the Audubon network—and trend stories that encapsulate an emerging theme, idea, or issue. Examples here, here, and here.
- Fun stories that delight and surprise readers. Examples here, here, and here.
- Series and packages that focus on an intriguing and under-examined central topic. Examples here, here, and here.
- Explainers that provide satisfying answers to enduring or curious questions; these are typically tied to seasons, trends, and news. Examples here, here, and here.
- Service content that provides interesting, timely, useful guidance for readers who care deeply about birds, habitat, and people. Examples here, here, here, here, and here.
Please peruse audubon.org/audubonmagazine to gauge whether your idea seems like a good fit for Audubon. Make sure that your pitch isn’t similar to stories we’ve run recently, and that the story hasn’t been covered by other media outlets. Bonus tips! We look for local stories with broader implications and stories on scientific studies that go beyond the embargoed news.
What are basic guidelines for long-form feature pitches?
Most of the features we publish are narratives, so don’t pitch us a topic you want to explore—the query should convey the tale you’re going to tell. What’s the central tension and larger importance, who are your main characters, and what kinds of scenes will you paint? We aren’t expecting the full narrative arc when you pitch us, but we do want to know that the tale promises to be an intriguing and satisfying one.
Do you only write about birds?
We write about birds and the people who love them, yes, but we’re also interested in issues that affect birds through a much broader lens—whether that’s native and invasive species, land use, pesticides, climate change, racial and environmental justice, and many more topics. We particularly like it if there’s a solutions element. We do not generally commission stories that are wholly focused on other animals—such as wolves or elephants—unless there is some relevance connecting back to birds.
How should I submit a pitch?
Please email pitches to relevant members of our editorial team (see below), along with a sentence or two about the kind of work you’ve done and links to writing samples. Intrigue us but keep it tight. For news stories, tell us in 300 words or so what you plan to cover, why it’s important and interesting, and how you’ll report it. For a feature, 500 to 700 words is a good range. If other major stories have been done on the topic, tell us how yours will be different and advance existing coverage or angle it to Audubon’s interests. Best bet to ensure we open your email: Include “pitch” in the subject line. We do our best to respond to every pitch. If we’re interested, you’ll usually hear back from us in one to two weeks.
How do I find the right editor to pitch for print or online?
Here are the editors along with a sample of the stories they’ve worked on. If you don’t know which editor to pitch to, copy a couple of editors on a single email. All email addresses include editors' full names: First.Last at audubon.org.
- Andrew Del-Colle, site director. Pitch him digital stories and projects from the short and quirky to the long and ambitious. Example stories here, here, here, here, and here.
- Jessica Leber, senior editor. Pitch her long-form features, essays, and shorter front-of-book stories for our quarterly magazine. She also occasionally edits digital stories, especially science and quirky culture pieces. Stories here, here, here, here, and here.
- Andy McGlashen, senior editor. Pitch him news stories and features, especially those with a conservation policy angle. Stories here, here, here, and here.
- Alisa Opar, features editor. Pitch her long-form features, essays, and packages. Stories here, here, here, and here.
How much do you pay for freelance pieces?
For online news articles, explainers, Q&As, and other stories that typically run less than 1,200 words, we pay $.50/word, but the rate may rise with time commitment and reporting intensity. We expect writers to stick closely to the assigned word count and we pay based on the final word count.
Pay for longer essays is $1/word but can go up depending on the piece.
Pay for features, both in print and online, is typically $1.50/word. Feature packages equivalent to a six-page story in print start at a $2,500 project fee and rise from there.
What kinds of content don’t you accept?
We don’t accept poetry, fiction, pre-written articles, or op-eds.
I’m not a journalist, but I have a story I want to write. Will you consider my pitch?
You bet! Our editors appreciate a good tale, and if we think your story has potential to resonate with our readers, we’ll work with you to craft a piece of professional writing. Most stories that we assign to non-journalists are tightly focused personal essays that lean into the writer’s experiences and insights.
What is Audubon magazine’s relationship to the National Audubon Society?
Audubon is a journalism enterprise of the National Audubon Society. While we publish stories that reflect the organization’s priorities of birds and conservation, including the work of the National Audubon Society itself, our editors retain authority over editorial content to uphold the journalistic integrity and independence of its reporting. Donations made to the National Audubon Society help support its commitment to journalism but do not influence the news judgment of its editors.
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