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Parallel session

Fun and entertainment

2 July

15:40 to 16:50

STCC, Room 3BC

Pitch Slam 2019: Return of the pitch slam

Sliding a new idea for a story into an editor’s inbox can be terrifying. Is your pitch what they’re looking for? How do you know?


Here is your chance to hone your skills, and maybe get a pitch in the door in the process. Editors from Science, Nature and more will offer their tips on pitch-perfect story ideas. The panel will then respond to a selection of pitches sent to the group ahead of the meeting. They’ll share what works, what doesn’t, and why. Finally, we will open up the floor for an open pitch session.


This year, we are thrilled to have the following editors for our panel:


Ashley Smart, Senior Editor, Undark (USA)

Eric Hand, European News Editor, Science (USA)

Laura Helmuth, Health, Science & Environment Editor, The Washington Post (USA)

Nicky Phillips, Chief of Asia-Pacific News Bureau, Nature (Australia)

Prasad Ravindranath, Science Editor, The Hindu (India)


We are now recruiting brave pitchers who would like to have their pitches considered. Pitches will be accepted from April 30 until June 15, 2019. To submit a pitch, fill out the following form:


But you don’t have to submit ahead of time! Bring a pitch to the event and slam it down in person! More details about the Pitch Slam, including what editors will be looking for regarding their specific publications, can be found here:


What are editors looking for?


Ashley Smart, Senior Editor, UnDark

UnDark’s main focus and audience: Undark primarily publishes narratives that, like our namesake, illuminate instances where science intersects in complicated ways (that is, both beneficially and detrimentally) with people's everyday lives. And if they involve disenfranchised or under-covered populations, so much the better. The political and economic tensions that shape human societies often hinge on scientific and technological questions and debates — vaccines, genetic engineering, climate change, agro-chemicals, renewable energy, AI — and those debates are often informed by differing values and interests. As such, Undark seeks stories that aim to shine a light on these complicated and fractious places where science collides with politics, economics, and culture, and where differing world views compete for resources and influence.


What UnDark is looking for: Undark runs a steady mix of 1000- to 2000-word reported features, book reviews and excerpts, op-eds, short interviews, and a dozen or so long-form narratives each year. All stories are vigorously edited and fact-checked, and a sophisticated handling of science and technical detail for a general audience is paramount — though we are not interested in stories that simply cover science for its own sake. Social context is everything, and all prospective contributors are encouraged to scan the stories in our Variables, Cross Sections, and Case Studies silos to get better sense of the type of material we are after. Audio and video journalists should visit our Podcast and Figures archives.


Eric Hand, European News Editor, Science

Science’s main focus and audience: Global science news and features for both general readers and working scientists.


What Science is looking for: Scoops, exclusives and otherwise original stories. For more information, see here:


Laura Helmuth, Health, Science & Environment Editor, The Washington Post

The Washington Post’s main focus and audience: The Washington Post covers most areas of health and science, as well as policy and politics related to research, health care, health insurance, and science funding. We primarily cover the United States, but we do run stories from around the world. I can recommend editors from our Financial, International, Wellness and other departments if a  pitch isn’t quite a fit for my health and science department.

What WaPo is looking for: We are looking for stories that go well beyond a single study, although it’s fine if a study is the peg for a story. We do not cover early stages of research; for example, we don’t cover medical research when it is in the animal model stage of testing. We favor stories that show the consequences of government policies for people, stories that pull together a recent body of research, and stories that give important science background for subjects that are in the news. We do publish first-person articles that have additional reporting and use the author’s personal experience as a way to understand a body of research. But it doesn’t have to all be serious – we also like to run quirky, surprising, or funny stories. Freelancers can sign up to be part of the Washington Post’s “talent network” here:


Nicky Phillips, Chief of Asia-Pacific News Bureau, Nature

Nature News’ main focus and audience: Nature news focuses on covering the latest major discoveries, trends and controversies in science for a global audience of working scientists.


What Nature News is looking for: For the Asian-Pacific news bureau, I’m looking for story ideas that will tell to our global readers what are the most important things happening in science in this region; I want stories that are surprising and interesting and will have an impact. I want more pitches about research in China. I’m not after pitches for discovery stories from major journals.


Prasad Ravindranath, Science Editor, The Hindu

The Hindu’s main focus and audience: A national political newspaper which has a dedicated page for Science & Tech once a week. The main focus is on research carried out in India, whether wholly or in collaboration with institutions outside India.  


What The Hindu is looking for: Since the focus of the S&T page is research carried out in India, the pitches should be about research done here and published in a reputed journal. It should be either topical or based on recently published paper. If it is about a development or policy issue, it should be topical. If the pitch is based on work done outside India, it should either be a very significant research or development, or should have implications to people in India.

Pitches on public health issues should be on current issues, though exceptions are made depending on the topic. Pitches about products in development, pitches by doctors to "create awareness" about certain diseases/conditions are outright rejected.

The pitch should clearly state what the article intends to convey, the importance of the work and its uniqueness, the nature of the study (in vitro, in vivo or human clinical trial) and the main findings and/or implications of the work.

Pitches about discoveries proving/disproving a well established theory that has not published in a reputed journal (which we used to receive in plenty before) are rejected without a batting an eyelid.

The deadline for pitches to be considered for the curated section of the pitch slam is June 15, 2019. To submit a pitch, fill out the following form:

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