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How to Pitch to HealthyCal.org

How to Pitch to HealthyCal.org

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If you have ever been a freelance journalist, you know how hard it can be to break into a new outlet. That's why opportunities like those offered by HealthyCal.org are golden. The site focuses on health policy and how it connects to communities around California, an apt topic for editor Daniel Weintraub who spent nine years as a public affairs columnist at the Sacramento Bee. When Weintraub launched HealthyCal.org just over a year ago (and spoke with ReportingonHealth about his goals), he was the main content producer. Now, he's looking for new contributors from all over the state to connect Sacramento politics with ground realities.

"My writing on policy from Sacramento and elsewhere is still an important part of the site, and I am the most frequently published writer on HealthyCal.org," Weintraub writes in email. "But our mission has always been to connect the community to the Capitol by telling stories from places around California."

This week at Career GPS, Weintraub answers questions about how to pitch to HealthyCal.org How much do they pay? What kind of stories and journalists are they seeking? And what's the difference between writing for commercial and non-profit new outlets?

Looking for more opportunities? Health media job openings, fellowships and grants are at the end of this post. You can keep up with Career GPS via RSS.

Weintraub answered questions by email. Our edited conversation is below  (HealthyCal is funded by The California Endowment, which also funds ReportingonHealth. ReportingonHealth Editor Michelle Levander serves on the news site's advisory board).


Daniel Weintraub

Are you looking for freelancers to pitch individual stories or stringers you can go to with assignments regularly?

Both. We will consider unsolicited pitches of feature stories that fit within our mission of covering public health and community health issues, broadly defined. We're also looking for freelancers who can take assignments on a regular basis.

How much content per week or month and how many freelancers are you looking for?

 We are looking for one or two stories per month out of several communities around California, but the exact number of stories will depend on how many contributors we have in each location and the flow of the news.

What locations are you looking for?

We're looking for people in central Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Long Beach, the Coachella Valley, and in Bakersfield, Merced, Fresno, Salinas and the Bay Area. In some of these places we already have established contributors, but we might consider adding more depth so that we have continuity if some of our current writers move on.

How did you choose which cities to cover and how many contributors you need in those cities?

We're generally interested in covering under-served communities, communities of color and places where the connection between health and wealth is an issue. We have a focus on 14 places that are part of the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative, but we are not limited to those places. We also cover these same issues on a statewide basis, so there really are not too many geographic boundaries that would stop us from taking a good story. We're looking for one or two people in the communities where we have our primary focus.

Here's a straightforward but important question: How much do you pay contributors?

We pay from $250 to $750 per article. We pay $250 for single interview excerpts, where the subject is telling their story in their own words. We pay $500 for a standard, multi-source news feature. We pay up to $750 for more complex and enterprise stories.

What kind of qualifications are you looking for in freelancers?

We need people who can work independently and develop a story on their own without much direction. We want young people and recent graduates to work with us, so we enjoy providing guidance, but we don't have the resources to do a lot of hand holding. So our writers have to bring the skills to the table or grasp them quickly. Other than that we are not sticklers about credentials, experience, etc. If you can write and report to our standards, that's good enough for us.

Why are you interested in working with young journalists given how many experienced health journalists are looking for work these days?

We are happy to work with writers of all ages. We've just seen that so far most of our applicants have been recent graduates from college or others new to the field. I suppose that is because it is difficult to make a living on freelance writing, and so it is easier for a young person with fewer financial commitments to try to make that work. We wish we could pay more or offer more assignments, but we don't have the budget for that at this time.

What is the best way journalists can contact you with their pitches or about becoming stringers? What kinds of pitches grab your attention?

Email our assistant editor, Heather Tirado Gilligan, at  heathertgilligan@earthlink.net.

The best pitches will describe a health or wellness issue in a community and be people-centered while also showing how a problem or success story fits into the bigger picture of the region or California. The pitch should be a few hundred words and be very clear about what the story is and the writer's capacity to execute it.

Should freelancers send resumes, links to prior work or just short blurbs about themselves?

All of the above would be great.

What has prompted the growth of your contributor base?

It's been a continuous process since we went online a year ago. We had some people when we started who have since moved on. As we  put  other pieces of our website in place, we have had more time and resources to focus on the community reporting side of the project.

What should freelancers know about the differences between working for a nonprofit and for-profit news outlet?

In our case there really is not much difference in terms of the journalism. We have the same standards and the same ethical guidelines as the major newspapers I've worked for. On the business side, maybe the biggest difference is that we actively encourage our free lancers to re-sell their work, in its original form or repackaged into a new story. Our goal is to have as many people as possible read the stories, so we are not proprietary about keeping everything locked down on our site.

Career GPS will be at SXSW Interactive next week, hunting for health story ideas, job opportunties and the latest innovations in media.

Health Media Opportunities

New Job and Internship Listings

Assistant Editor, Healthline.com
Location: San Francisco, CA
Status: Full Time
Medium: Online

Environment and Health Reporter, The Times-News
Location: Twin Falls, ID
Status: Full Time
Medium: Newspaper

Executive Editor, FierceHealthcare (via JournalismJobs)
Location: Washington, D.C.
Status: Full Time
Medium: Trade, Online

Government Senior Health Analyst, Bloomberg (via Poynter)
Location: Washington, D.C.
Status: Full Time
Medium: Wire

Fellowships and Grants

Rosalynn Carter Fellowships For Mental Health Journalism
Eligibility: Open to journalists with at least three years of experience and citizenship from United States, Romania or South Africa
Included: $10,000 stipends to report on mental health issues, mentorship to complete reporting project
Deadline: Apr. 18, 2011
From the Website: "Fellowships are tailored to suit the needs, interests, and experiences of each fellow. They also generate knowledge and information to benefit the mental health field and the public. When appropriate, the program requests that fellows conduct one training session related to mental health and journalism for their peers during the fellowship year."

National Health Journalism Fellowship, USC Annenberg California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships
Eligibility: Open to professional journalists from print, broadcast, and online media, including freelancers. Applicants need not be full time health reporters, but they need to have a passion for health news (broadly defined).
Included: All-expenses paid six-day program in Los Angeles, $200 stipend and upon completion of what are expected to be ambitious, major fellowship projects.
Deadline: May 2, 2011
From the Website: "To stimulate collaboration between mainstream and ethnic media, we encourage applicants to propose a joint project for use by both media outlets. Up to two collaborators for each project may receive a stipend."

Dennis A. Hunt Health Journalism Grants, USC Annenberg California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships
Eligibility: Open to all journalist members of Center for Health Journalism Digital. Print, broadcast and new media journalists from anywhere in the United States are eligible to apply, as are all past fellows of the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.
Included: Provides funding for proposed stories or multimedia projects that illuminate or expose critical community health or community health policy issues and acceptance to the National Health Journalism Fellowship program.
Deadline: May 2, 2011
From the Website: "Proposals can focus on a specific health topic or delve into a confluence of circumstances and conditions that impact health, including environment; social class; crime and violence; urban development; access to health resources or the lack thereof; school absenteeism; transportation or city planning, and and disparities in health. Topics that would NOT be eligible would include clinical trials, medical research, or the latest treatments for a disease or any project involving a population outside of the United States."

California Health Journalism Fellowship, USC Annenberg California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships
Eligibility: Open to professional journalists from print, broadcast, and online media in California, including freelancers. Applicants need not be full time health reporters, but they need to have a passion for health news (broadly defined).
Included: All-expenses paid seminars in Los Angeles, mentoring for completion of reporting project
Deadline: Aug. 26, 2011
From the Website: "During the Fellowship sessions, Fellows get plenty of time to discuss with experts, and with each other, strategies for covering health news with authority and sophistication. Between the two sessions and for three months after the second session, Fellows confer by phone and e-mail with veteran journalists who guide them through work on major Fellowship projects."

Awards with Upcoming Deadlines

Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism
Eligibility: Open to journalists in all media working in the United States, Canada or Mexico who report on North American West environmental topics in 2010
Award: $5,000 prize is awarded at the annual Knight-Risser Prize Symposium at Stanford University
Deadline: Mar. 15, 2011 (book deadline has passed)
From the Website: "We want to reward and showcase reporting that best addresses important Western environmental issues - whether or not it was produced by journalists based in Western news organizations. Starting this year, we invite new players, from startups to nonprofits, students and citizen journalists to submit their finest work. Please refer to our standards for journalistic independence as explained below in the eligibility section."

Mental Health America's Media Awards
Eligibility: Open to media professionals and student journalists in print, online, radio, television and film for work published in 2010, $30-50 entry fee
Award: Winners will honored at a Media Awards luncheon on Saturday, June 11, 2011, during the 2011 Mental Health America Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. and given access to all conference sessions, but must pay their own expenses to attend
Deadline: Mar. 31, 2011
From the Website: "Entries are judged by a committee of peers selected by Mental Health America for their knowledge of mental health issues, demonstrated excellence in reporting and editorial experience."

Award for Excellence in Science and Medical Journalism, The Endocrine Society
Eligibility: English-language journalism related to endocrinology and published or broadcast between March 1, 2010 and February 28, 2011
Award: Award plaque and travel to the Society's annual meeting awards dinner in June 2011
Deadline: Apr. 1, 2011
From the Website: "The award recipient is selected by the Society's Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committee (APOCC). The committee will give weight to entries that demonstrate thorough research, accurate reporting, originality and contribute to the public understanding of endocrinology."

Pfizer Award
Eligibility: This prize is awarded in recognition of an outstanding book dealing with the history of science. The book must be published in English during a period of three calendar years immediately preceding the year of competition (books eligible for 2006 were published in 2003, 2004, or 2005). Edited volumes, as well as works with more than 2 authors, are not eligible. A multi-volume work by one or two authors may be nominated only after the publication of all the volumes.
Award: The award consists of a medal and $2,500.
Deadline: Apr. 1, 2011
From the Website: "The prize committee may consider books where medicine or technology is a central theme. However, both the Society for the History of Technology and the American Association for the History of Medicine award their own prizes and while strict separation of fields is not always possible or desirable, the Pfizer Award should be given to a book that is principally a history of science."

Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment, Society of Environmental Journalism
Eligibility: Any journalism that is predominantly about an environmental subject and published or broadcast in 2010 with $30-$80 entry fee
Award: $500 first-place, $200 second-place and $100 third-place prizes may be awarded in all categories.
Deadline: Apr. 1, 2011
From the Website: "Honors outstanding environmental reporting. Award is given to encourage journalists to help educate the public and public officials on environmental issues. Results achieved by the reporting may be included."

Educational Opportunities

Alzheimer's Issues 2011, National Press Foundation
Eligibility: Print, broadcast and online journalists with letters of support from supervisors
Program: Four-day, all-expenses-paid program in Washington, D.C., May 22-25, 2011
Deadline: March 21, 2011
From the Website: "This program will feature experts on topics including the latest research in Alzheimer's prevention, diagnosis and treatment; the soaring costs of care and lost productivity; global aging and its implications; the personal stress of care-giving; ethical issues around Alzheimer's Disease; ideas for change, and more. In journalist-only discussions, we'll introduce web resources and talk about ways to present this complex story."

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