Pitch Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in pitching to the Chicago Reader. We are primarily a staff-written publication, but we also run narrative features, insightful criticism, timely blog posts, or expertly composed videos that come from freelance contributors.

We get several pitches every day, including many from writers and reporters we’ve never worked with before. We welcome these “over-the-transom” submissions, which diversify our content and bring new voices to our site.

However, because we get so many pitches we are forced to be selective. These guidelines are meant to help you craft a pitch that will cut through the clutter and pique our interest.

Rules of Thumb

We rarely accept already written or finished stories. If you send us a finished story—especially one that is more than 500 words—we will not read it. We don’t have time.

We prefer reported stories to op-eds. If you pitch us an op-ed, the story should still be backed up with original reporting or findings that bolster your opinions.

If you’ve never written for us before, we recommend that you start by pitching a short story—one that is 300 to 1,000 words that you can report and write in a day or two—as opposed to a lengthy feature that might take weeks or months to report and write. 

Don’t presume we are as knowledgeable about this topic as you are. Help us get into the story the way you would if you were telling the story to a friend who knew nothing about the topic. 

Here are some topics we are especially interested in right now:

  • Women’s rights
  • #BlackLivesMatter and police misconduct
  • Chicago tech
  • Legal marijuana in Illinois
  • LGBTQ issues
  • On-the-ground reporting about Chicago’s public schools
  • The 2016 elections
  • Immigration (especially if you have leads on stories about Syrian immigrants in Chicago)

We will assess the likelihood of you completing the story as planned based on what’s in the pitch.

We highly encourage reporters who are women, people of color, queer, and/or part of any other marginalized group to pitch to us.

While we are traditionally a prose publication, we also encourage submissions of photos, illustrations, video, or other multimedia pieces that could run online or in print.

Pitch Questions

Please answer the following questions:

What is your story about? The answer to this question should contain: your lede, if it is a news story; your nut graf, if it is a feature; and the date peg or news hook that makes this a critical and necessary story for us to run now. You should also be explicit about what medium you envision for the story. (Please keep this answer to 500 words MAX.)

Why should the Reader’s audience care about this story? What will make this a compelling story they will want to read or watch all the way through?

How long will it take you to report and write/produce this story? (Be realistic.) What if any reporting have you done already?

What is the proposed word count or run time for the finished story?

Do you have any personal connection to this story that we should know about? Do you have any conflicts of interest that might compromise your ability to report this story fairly and without bias?

What previous experience do you bring to this story? For example, if you are a veteran tech reporter and this is a tech story, tell us that.

Please include three links to previously written/reported/produced stories that demonstrate your capacity to report this story. If you have previously written or shot for the Reader, please include links to those stories.

Email your answers to pitches@chicagoreader.com and use “Pitch query” with your story’s slug as the subject line.