Credit: Photo by Ritupon Baishya on Unsplash

This article first appeared on IJNet and has been republished with permission

In our relentless media ecosystem – where content circulates around the clock across platforms – choosing the best format for a story is crucial. While the depth of a feature article, the direct engagement of a newsletter or the sensory experience of a podcast may sound appealing, each medium has its own set of rules and audience expectations that should also be considered. 

Deciding on your story delivery goes beyond just being able to showcase a diverse set of skills. It influences how your reporting is received, shared and remembered. 

But how do you tailor pitches to different mediums? These five experts offer guidance on how to get written, audio and visual stories from proposal to publication.

Feature articles

Effective pitching for feature articles, a staple for most freelancers, is about highlighting the story's relevance and timeliness. 

"A good story has a clear angle, contributes new information and illuminates an existing problem," said Madeleine Schwartz, founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine, The Dial. "The initial pitch should answer the following questions: What information does this story bring us? Why is it important? Why now?"

It is also important to show some preliminary research and groundwork, and present an action plan for your reporting, stressed Schwartz. Including relevant bylines to your pitch when possible can also add credibility to your proposal.


Newsletter pitches must capture a unique personality that cuts through a crowded inbox. They should be to the point and preferably already in the publication's tone, advised Cadence Bambenek, editor-in-chief of the climate solutions newsletter, Hothouse. "It also helps if you include links to works that demonstrate a similar execution of style and voice,” she said.

Bambenek gave some useful references to navigate the constraints of email communication. "I try to commission pieces between 1,800 and 2,500 words, and the higher end of that can push into too long [depending] on the graphics or images you want to include," she said.

But there is the possibility of breaking down extensive narratives into more dispatches. "Because the Hothouse newsletter grapples with deep questions about climate change and its solutions, [we've transitioned] to commissioning more serialised versions of articles."

Photo and video features

When it comes to visual stories, Nina Berman, a documentary photographer, filmmaker and journalism professor at Columbia Journalism School, called for a clear vision and logistical planning.

"The pitch has to address right away what we will see, what the journalist has access to and what, if any, important events or scenes will be filmed," she said. Also, consider the potential budget, as video projects typically demand a team effort, while photo essays offer more flexibility for solo work.

"Always say why [the story] is relevant now and if [it] has already been covered why your approach, or your visual language, will be unique," she continued. "For photo essays, we also need to know the visual approach and aesthetic."

Some editors may want to see a mood board, a collage of images and other materials to convey the project's direction. If you have an established relationship with the newsroom, you do not need to have shot anything before being commissioned. Those new to the profession may include a preview of the work.  

You should also develop a reported pitch, which means you have secured potential subjects, recommended Berman: "The journalist needs to describe relevant scenes, or characters, where they live, what they do and crucially what we can see them do and how this is relevant to the story."

Visual essays

"A visual essay is about a story that is better told visually," said Caitlyn Ralph, from the data-oriented digital publication, The Pudding, and a studio director at its in-house creative agency, Polygraph. The format dissects complex, evergreen topics into various outputs – from data visualisation to video, quizzes, games and even physical merch – in ways that words alone cannot match.

However, graphic or coding skills are not prerequisites when pitching, at least for The Pudding. "We take on freelancers, regardless. [It's] a combination of compatibility, team interest and overall resources/bandwidth at that moment," said Ralph. 

Consider topics that challenge prevailing assumptions and invite readers into a debate. The key to landing a commission is demonstrating how visual elements can simplify and amplify the narrative, not vice versa. 


Podcasts need stories that engage listeners episode after episode. "They probably are more similar to TV [than written journalism]," said Rowena Henley, producer and development producer at Mags Creative, the production company behind audio-docuseries like the BBC’s "Frozen Out."

"If I were an individual journalist pitching, I would focus my energy on finding incredible stories," said Henley. Compared to repeatable formats like weekly talk shows, these one-offs are more likely to be picked up. The goal is to take listeners through a story – not a general topic – with a distinct beginning, middle and end, characters and events, and most importantly, twists and turns.

"My dream pitch would come with a working title, [an] elevator pitch of three to four sentences about the story and why it is timely, and a brief breakdown of each episode," she outlined. "Bonus points if you can give some cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Then I would give details about access to sources, either people you spoke to or plan to speak to." Suggesting potential commissioners that a production company can take your idea to is also helpful. 

Lastly, pay attention to the sound effects you plan to incorporate. "Think about why [the story] lends itself to audio as opposed to anything else. Some stories simply don't have a rich audio texture [and] it's just not going to work," said Henley.

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