Archive for the ‘Journalism 101’ Category

Journalism 101: Pitching a feature

June 16, 2009


I’m going to share three of my real life pitches that worked with various degrees of success.

The first is a very informal pitch I sent to Smokey Fontaine at GIANT. I was writing for GIANT regularly and I had a relationship with Smokey. So I didn’t need to introduce myself or explain why I was the right person for the project. This style of pitching is ONLY when you have a strong relationship with the editor. I’d run into Smokey a few days before and he told me to send him a few ideas. This was one of them.


Journalism 101: Before you send off that pitch…

June 12, 2009


I got an email from a dear reader yesterday. And she was a bit frantic.

She’s just published a short piece in a national entertainment magazine. (Yay!)

She sent off a thank you email to the editor, (good job!), and asked about pitching more stories. The editor invited her to start pitching. (Yay!)

And then she freaked out.

What to pitch!? She started flipping through the magazine, hands on her keyboard, ready to dash off an email with tons of great story ideas.

Luckily, before she pressed send, she emailed me:

Hey Aliya!
How are ya? I’m kind of in a bind. Do you have any advice for generating story ideas? I got the green light to start pitching [NAME REDACTED] But I think my ideas are wack or they already have them covered, which means they’re not original. I can write. I know this. Pitching is my problem!!! Ughhhh.

I told homegirl to step away from the keyboard. She was about to make a grave mistake.


Journalism 101: What do I use to record an interview?

April 20, 2009


Last week, one of my dear readers posted this comment:

Hey Aliya (and fellow writers), got a totally non-blog-related question for you:

I got an interview tomm with sonia sanchez. Is there a way I can record the conversation while on my blackberry (conducting the interview on the phone and also record on the bb)?

I immediately broke out in hives when I read this. I love this dear reader. (She was the first person to make me feel like a real blogger by screaming FIRST! in my comments section. Heh.)

But her comment was perplexing.

She wanted to know how to record an interview…on her Blackberry?


Journalism 101: Tax Time!

April 15, 2009


I started freelancing in ’98.

When tax time came around, I did what I had done since my first job at the East Orange Public Library. I gathered up my paperwork and gave it to my mom. She and my dad had an accountant who came each year around the same time. And for years, he did my return for a small fee that my parents paid for me.

Then I moved out of my parents home. And soon, taxes were one of those Things That Grownups Did. You know. Like, laundry and food shopping.

In 2000, I didn’t file at all. The 1099 forms that came in the mail from the magazines I wrote for scared me. There were no taxes taken out! What did that mean? How much did I owe the government? How much would I have to pay to get the return done?

I did what I usually do in these situations:


Journalism 101: How do I find an editor?

April 13, 2009


From my InBox:

Hi Aliya!  I searched the web for XYZ’s email address and it came back to me unanswered.  I then searched for the managing editor’s address and sent her my pitch.  However, I didn’t hear back from her and I’m not quite sure if it was the correct address or if I should have sent it to her in the first place.

I was wondering if it was possible you could point me in the right direction to getting editors’ email addresses?



It’s a common refrain. You’ve got the perfect pitch. You’ve done your research. You know it’s appropriate for the magazine. And you know the right editor to pitch it to.

Now how the heck do you get into the editor’s inbox?