Pitching 101: How to Write for the New York Times InTransit blog

Featured, Travel Writing — By on March 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

Check out 20 more great sites that accept (and pay for!) travel articles from freelancers!

By Amanda Pressner
LG Executive Editor

Yes, you too can write for the New York Times website! Well, that is, if you have a truly stellar idea pegged to an event in a major international city. This week, The Lost Girls spoke with New York Times deputy travel editor Monica Drake about what goes into a winning pitch for the site’s timely In Transit blog.

How would you say In Transit compares with—and stands out from—all of the other travel blogs that are out there?

We try to do a little more in-depth reporting—we don’t link to other sources, which is an unusual practice as far as travel blogs go. We also wouldn’t publish something on In Transit that you might find elsewhere in the New York Times print edition or our website, like a piece on the 10 Coolest New Coffee Bars in Seattle or how to spend 48 Hours in Dallas. The focus for the blog is specifically on events—festivals, shows, exhibitions, etc—in major international cities, as well as breaking travel industry news that affects (or has the potential to affect) a wide audience of readers.

Do your ideas come from freelancers or are they generated in house?

I would say it’s about 50/50. We definitely get at least half of our ideas from freelancers, particularly those who come from a news reporting background. We vet each and every one of the people who write for us.

Unfortunately, due to Times policy, we can’t accept pitches from a freelancer who’s attended a press junket anytime in the past three years. Not just for the destination you’re pitching, but any junket. That tends to weed out a lot of people who have worked for travel publications in the past.

What sections of In Transit are open to freelancers for pitching?

The Globespotters section covers an event or that’s happening in a major international city: Featured destinations include Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Prague and London.  You don’t have to live in one of these cities, but be familiar with it through your travels.

Also, if you’re clued into a very unique, emerging industry trend—or know of the first travel company, destination, hotel or air carrier about to try something really out of the box (ie, the first guaranteed “kid-free” flight)—we’d assign a story on that. We just posted a piece on Japan building the world’s fastest train, and the Panamanian government covering the cost of health insurance for its visitors.

What’s the “right way” to pitch to In Transit?

Your pitch should be concise and very much to the point—a quick email to say hello, then your pitch and how quickly you can turn it around. We’re looking more for the idea than a particular style of writing. The pitches that tend to work best are super-timely, and pegged to a major upcoming event like Fashion Week or Carnivale.

Since we research all of our writers, be sure to include your resume—and follow up once or twice if you don’t hear from us.

What’s the wrong way to pitch? Any major mistakes that people make?

You’d be surprised at how often we receive pitches from people who’ve never read the blog! These writers will submit ideas about going on a cruise and writing about their experiences, and that’s pretty off-base for us. So I’d say read through lots of older, archived posts before you put your pitch together.

How many pitches should you send at a time?

If you can give us three clear ideas in your email, that’s usually more effective than just sending one—or overdoing it with five or six. Anything more than four is overwhelming. We suggest that you do a little self-editing and toss the ideas that you feel are your weakest.

Should you pitch before you leave for your trip—or after you get back?

If you can pitch your story a few weeks before you leave, that’s generally ideal. It gives us enough time for us to assign the story and for you to research it. But even if you’re already traveling, take some notes just in case—we’re not opposed to assigning a good story after you’ve returned home.

If you’ve got a stellar idea, which editor should you send it to?

You can email it to me:

Monica Drake at modrak [at] nytimes [dot] com

Does the site pay for articles? If so, how much?

It’s $50 per 300-word article, unless there’s more reporting involved. We also occasionally reprint some of the items from the blog in the newspaper, which is a bonus.

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    9 Comments

  • Priscilla says:

    This was really helpful. Thanks for covering this and for explaining exactly what The New York Times wants in an article.
    Cheers,
    Priscilla

  • Shivya says:

    Thanks for an in-depth review on how to get published on In Transit. Appreciate it 🙂

  • Sam Grisham says:

    Wanted to tell you to check out my son Cody Grisham’s new travel site and blog.
    Check him at 2guystrippin.com
    facebook
    twitter
    google plus

    Thanks

  • Jay Veidt says:

    Thanks for tackling this subject, Amanda. While I applaud your illumination of the NY Times’ policy, restricting reporters from taking any discounted goods or services – and paying writers $50 for a finished article – pretty much insures that the only people who will be travel writers will be heirs and heiresses, those of other independent means, or those who can get by in this world without laying out money for food, rent, lights, phone, etc.

    *sigh.*

  • Jenni says:

    Hi,

    Are you currently accepting guest posts on your website ?

    My name is Jenni Roi and I am a freelance writer to help them reach new audiences online by developing content partnerships with good quality blogs and websites like yours.

    I would like to stress that the article itself will not be self-promotional – I strive to ensure each piece I write is unique, written exclusively for your website and offers value to your audience.

    If you are happy for me to do so, then I will include a reference to my client in the byline so that your readers can find out more if they wish.

    Does this sound like something you would be interested in?

    I look forwards to hearing from you.

    All the best,
    Jenni Roi

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