Thanks for your interest in writing for ScienceNOW. We’re always looking for good writers, and we welcome your pitches. Here are some things you should know before pitching.
What to Pitch
ScienceNOW covers all areas of science, from geology to genetics. Because we are a daily news site, we focus on breaking news. That usually means a new scientific study that has just come out in a major journal or that has just been presented at a scientific meeting. Our focus is also on big news. Thousands of scientific results come out every day—but we can only cover a handful of them. That means you should be pitching big deal discoveries that have broad implications for society and that are advances comprehensible to the general public.
A type of story we like to see: Researchers identify region in the brain responsible for laughter
A type of story we don’t like to see: Researchers identify new enzyme in biochemical pathway in brain that may be responsible for some human behaviors
Another important note: We scan all of the big press releases and journals (Science, Nature, PNAS, etc.), so you will have very little luck successfully pitching a study from these. Our biggest piece of advice is this: Pitch us hidden gems. Scan the secondary journals, online archives, etc. for cool stories that didn’t get press releases and/or that no one else has covered. Or scan the big journals for cool papers that didn’t get press releases. At the end of the day, we want to run cool, exclusive items, and if you find these for us, we will look upon you highly.
What Kind of Story is It?
We run three types of news stories on our website:
ScienceNOWs: 500 - 600-word news stories on breaking research discoveries. Flat fee of $350, plus $50 if item is repurposed for the magazine.
ScienceShots: 150-word photo captions for nice art. Pay is $75.
ScienceInisders: News stories of varying lengths that cover developments in science policy. Pay is $0.50 / word up to $350, plus $50 if item is repurposed for the magazine.
ScienceNOWs and ScienceShots should be pitched to David Grimm at dgrimm AT aaas DOT org. ScienceInsiders should be pitched to insider AT aaas DOT org.
When to Pitch
ScienceNOW is a daily news site that competes with all of the other major science news outlets on the web, from Nature to The New York Times. As such, we need to post our stories as soon as they break. If you are pitching any embargoed material, you need to pitch it at least two days before the embargo breaks. This will ensure that we have enough time to evaluate your pitch—and that you have enough time to write the story up.
If you are not pitching embargoed news, please check Google News to see if any other outlets have covered the story. If none, or very few have, feel free to pitch it. But please make sure that the story was published no earlier than the current month. (If the story is super cool, we may make an exception). Don’t pitch a story that was published in January if it’s already April. Note that some journals publish their articles online several months before they publish them in print. So if you see a cool story, but it has an old online publication date, check with the outlet to see if there’s a fresher print date.
How to Pitch
Be sure to put “Pitch” in your subject line. Otherwise your e-mail may be flagged as spam or ignored as a press release.
Write a few sentences about what the study’s about and why it’s a big deal. (see sample pitch letter at end)
Include the press release and paper when possible.
Always be thinking about video, audio, and other multimedia. It can sometimes put a story over the edge.
Please note that we do not throw stories at new writers. You must pitch and write a few stories for us first. If we are happy with your writing and performance, we may start throwing stories at you.
We tend to be light on physical sciences, so if you see a cool physics, math, chemistry, etc. story, you have a better chance of success. That is, assuming you have demonstrated that you can handle this subject matter. That being said, most of our stories are life science stories, so there is ample opportunity to get these types of stories greenlit.
Take a look at our website to get a sense of the type of stories we cover and how we cover them. This is also a good way to ensure that you don’t pitch a story we’ve already run.
If you are not signed up for embargoed content, please do so through EurekAlert. You should also contact the major journals and asked to be put on their e-mail lists for embargoed news.
If you have not heard back about a pitch within a day of pitching (less if it’s very time sensitive), please contact us again. We have an aggressive spam filter.
How the Process Works
If we greenlight a pitch, we will usually ask you to file it at 8 AM eastern time on the day we want to publish it (usually the day the embargo lifts). We will want art and multimedia by noon.
Your story will likely go through a couple of rounds of editing with a primary editor and another round of editing with a top editor. The story will then be copyedited and posted. This process usually takes 4 - 5 hours, and it is critical that you be available either via e-mail or phone until it is complete.
Sample Pitch Letter
Pitch: Researchers Find Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria on Antibiotic-Free Meat
If you're paying premium prices for antibiotic-free meat, then you might also expect that your steak -- or pork chop or chicken breast -- is free of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, a new study that’s about to be published in PLoS ONE finds that this is not always the case. Researchers who compared grass-fed versus conventionally-raised farm animals discovered Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one of the world’s most dangerous drug-resistant microbes, in similar quantities in meat sold from both animals. So consumers buying products labeled “no antibiotics added” may not be getting what they’re paying for—and the government may have to rethink how it regulates this meat.
This story is embargoed for 5 PM EST next Friday. The press release is below, and I have attached the article.
I'm a science journalist who has written for WebMD, Nature, and Discover. I've written about the public health and regulatory aspects of antibiotic use in food animals for the Los Angeles Times.
Thanks for considering my pitch. I look forward to hearing from you.
Writing for ScienceNOW
Here are some simple rules that will help you write and organize your ScienceNOW, or SNOW as we call it. The most useful thing you can do is to visit the site and take a look at some of the stories we have run. Please keep in mind that your story should be written for a general audience. Anyone in high school on up should be able to understand and enjoy it.
Length: SNOWs should run between 500 and 600 words.
Structure: SNOWs typically adhere to a 4 to 5 paragraph format organized as follows:
Introduction (1 graf) - creative/eye catching lede + what's new + why it's important
Background (1 graf) - what has been done before + what does the reader need to know to understand the significance of the study + what big question is being addressed
Methods (1-2 grafs) - what experiments were done + what were the results + quote from at least one researcher
Comment (1 graf) - you should speak to at least 2 outside experts and quote at least one of them. Experts are not affiliated with the study but are qualified to speak about the research. You may share the paper with them, but have them agree to an interview first and tell them they must respect the embargo.
You don’t have to stick precisely to this format, but many writers find this a good way to organize their stories.
Art and multimedia: If possible, please send any art or art ideas, plus video and/or audio files, in advance of your story so that our art department can start working on it. If you are requesting art from the researchers, please ask for high-resolution photographs and aim for aesthetically pleasing images that will make sense to a general audience. If the multimedia comes directly from your source (i.e. your source owns the rights/permission to it), please send them the “Multimedia Upload Instructions”.
Identifying your sources: Try to find a 1 or 2-word term to describe your source, as in
molecular biologist John Smith or oceanographer Jane Doe. It's best to ask your source directly how they like to be identified. We don't use "Professor of" or "Chair of", so make sure they give you a term like above. Also, be sure to correctly identify the name and location of their institution (ex. geochronologist James Lee of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario).
Miscellaneous: Single space after each period. Please obtain a URL for the study. The link should direct to freely-available content, whether that be the full paper (no pdfs) or just an abstract. If the item is under embargo, please e-mail the press office to obtain the advanced URL.
Writing for ScienceShots
Length: Science Shots should run about 150 words or less
Structure: All shots are a little different depending on what they’re about, but this general format can serve as a guide if you’re having trouble getting started.
Introduction: 1 sentence catchy lede
Methods: what they did and how (concisely)
Discovery: what their findings were
Implications: what do the researchers suggest their findings mean and/or what are the future steps related to this discovery
Conclusion: Snappy ending
Art and multimedia: For ScienceShots the pictures are important. Try to get nice art from the researchers. We also run video shots, if the video is more impressive than the image. If the multimedia comes directly from your source (i.e. your source owns the rights/permission to it), please send them the “Multimedia Upload Instructions”.
Identifying your sources: Don’t refer to the researcher by name in ScienceShots. Just “the researchers” is fine. Interviews and quotes are not required for shots, but feel free to contact sources if you need art or clarification.