Pittsburgh City Paper Pitch Guidelines | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh City Paper Pitch Guidelines

Pittsburgh City Paper is a freelancer-friendly alt-weekly with both a print and digital presence, and we take pitches on a rolling basis. We cover hard news, politics, social justice, arts & entertainment, culture, subcultures, food, nightlife, and much more — all with local ties to Pittsburgh. We publish reported pieces, profiles, essays, op-eds, and beyond.

If you’re thinking about pitching us a story, you definitely should. Our pages (and URLs) are your oyster. But there are a handful of things you should keep in mind as you’re generating ideas:

1. They don’t call us “alt” for nothing. We like unexpected stories, unique angles, and colorful characters. If your pitch is dry or is essentially a “topic” (and therefore not a story), it’s probably not for us.

2. Get to know City Paper, and what makes a good City Paper story. The best way to do that is to read us regularly, or at least binge-read us, to get a sense of our tone and perspective. We’re a progressive, thoughtful, sometimes weird, sometimes witty, free-thinking publication that showcases well-crafted, lively prose. Your story should work well in that context.

3. Be aware of what’s been done. If you pitch us a story we’ve already run, that’s not good, but it’s not much better if you pitch us a story that another publication has already run. Make sure you’re pitching something new, or at least pushing a story forward, and/or coming at it from a unique perspective.

So what are we looking for?

NEWS

CP catches all kinds of local stories that would otherwise fall through the cracks. Some of the things we're looking for in our news coverage:

- Local and/or radical politics. We welcome stories about the activists, candidates, organizers, protestors, and dreamers who make and try to make local change. Of particular interest are timely stories about underdog campaigns, demonstrations, and happenings that fit into our high-traffic election issues in spring and fall.

- YIMBY. CP is a fan of hiking, biking, and going green from A to B. We want stories about successful advocacy for commuters, pedestrians, and the environment. If you've got a unique angle on cutting carbon, bettering busways, or punishing polluters, we want to hear it.

- Pittsburgh's underbelly. Some of our favorite things to cover are Pittsburgh's secrets. Heard about a local scandal, or are you a whistleblower at a local org who can pull back the curtain on malfeasance? Know a piece of Steel City lore that's been obscured or forgotten? Hit us up.

- Forever underdogs. We publish stories that ask pointed questions about why Pittsburgh leaves some people behind, and we especially welcome stories that center advocacy for any and all Pittsburghers failed by the system.

- Overlooked sports. The Bucs, Stillers, and Pens get plenty of love — what about flag football, ultimate frisbee, soccer and everything else? Send us your ideas about Pittsburgh's less-heralded leagues and funky sports history.

- Quick-hit stories. Do you have a tip or tidbit, and could you turn it into a story in 24-48 hours? We have lots of room for these kinds of timely pieces, and if you’re able to pull this off, we’d love to hear what you’ve got. (Bonus: if you have room in your schedule to tackle this kind of thing with any regularity, you may, in fact, get a few assignments from us.)

Most of all, we want to tell more stories that speak to Pittsburgh life right now. If you have one, email Colin Williams, news editor, at colin@pghcitypaper.com.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

CP wants to report on the music, visual art, literature, etc. that makes Pittsburgh distinct. Reporting for the A&E section extends beyond the usual reviews and updates on big events coming to town. We want the scoop on emerging musicians, DJs, artists, drag performers, and other figures driving the local creative scene.

- Covering the underground. Are you a writer who has been to more basement shows than you can count? Tell us about some of the new bands you think deserve attention. Make readers curious about locally-produced, outsider art, indie films, experimental performances (dance or theater) — anything that falls outside the mainstream.

- Making the old new again. CP welcomes stories that add a fresh spin on aspects of the city we take for granted, or on a mainstay that has been overlooked. Maybe you find out that a church people pass by every day was built by a famous architect, or an unassuming building is actually a quaint little museum. We want our readers to know about it.

- Keep it local even when it’s not. Is there a big musical act, touring exhibition, or Broadway musical coming to town on which you have a unique perspective? Do you know a local crew member who has compelling, behind-the-scenes stories about working on a major TV show or movie that was shot here? Pittsburgh doesn’t exist in a bubble, and these kinds of stories put the city in a national or international context.

- Making a statement. CP knows that all art is political. We want stories about artists making a difference in their communities, LGBTQ and BIPOC artists trying to increase representation in the city, or artists trying to bring attention to a serious issue (prison reform, racism, reproductive rights,, and international conflict, to name a few).

- Characters welcome. A TikToker who uses comedy to deal with parental trauma. An author who writes about African heavy metal music. A former insurance salesman who turned his love of ravioli into a business. These are just some of the interesting local people CP has profiled, and we’re always open to more.

- Oh yeah, reviews. While we respect their approach to criticism, CP has zero interest in being the next Pitchfork or IndieWire. That being said, the right voice can make a review artful, entertaining, or enlightening. If you have samples of past reviews that you feel demonstrate a thoughtful, creative, or inventive approach to criticism, please feel free to share. That being said, we are more concerned with highlighting the controversial or outstanding aspects of Pittsburgh’s artistic landscape as opposed to taking down the latest blockbuster movie or splashy Broadway touring production.

Got something like this? Email Amanda Waltz, arts & entertainment editor, at awaltz@pghcitypaper.com

FEATURES, MISC.

But wait! There’s more. CP also has a few other niches in print and online that we’re looking to fill. They include:

- Magazine-style features. These are well-researched deep dives with an angle. They can be on a local subculture, trend, scene, movement, etc. — almost anything happening here in Pittsburgh that is little-known and fascinating. These should involve reporting but should have a narrative/literary bent.

- Food stories (but not restaurant reviews). We know there’s so much good happening in Pittsburgh’s food scene, and that’s exactly what we want to draw attention to. What are the can’t-miss dishes on menus around town? Who is a local sous chef on the rise? Are there immigrant or marginalized communities making a culinary splash that we should pay closer attention to? Is there a little pop-up-that-could that’s secretly serving some of the best food in town? We don’t need to know about restaurant openings and closings, we want to know about the people, places, and dishes that aren’t yet hyped, but should be.

- Roundups. Best bagels and best sushi are fine, but what about the best restaurants for dining alone? Or the best Pittsburgh parking hacks? Or the sexiest makeout spots? Or the most underrated public parks in town? We want to know it all.

- Hot, but not bad, takes. Give me a rant. Give me an ode. Tell me your top Pittsburgh pet peeve or your favorite Pittsburgh perk, your best Yinzer secret, or why you love something everyone else hates. Whatever it is, we’re interested in your personal Pittsburgh essay, especially if it evokes strong opinions and sparks a conversation.

Got something like this? Email Ali Trachta, editor-in-chief, at ali@pghcitypaper.com

A few notes on how to pitch:

- Use “Pitch:” in the subject line, followed by a headline suggestion or synopsis of your idea.

- Don’t send a resume (we don’t need it!) but do send a few writing samples. Also, give us a little window into who you are, and why you're right for this story. - Please don’t ask for assignments as we rarely (if ever?) contact a writer we’ve never worked with before with a spoon-fed idea. HOWEVER, if you freelance for us consistently, assignments may very well come your way in the future.

- Please do not pitch a column. Having a beat is cool, but we rarely (if ever?) assign columns to freelancers we haven’t worked with for a significant amount of time.

- Please don’t send a completed story. We rarely (if ever?) publish stories we didn’t specifically greenlight. (If you happen to have a completed story that, say, fell through elsewhere, please still pitch the story, and we’ll go from there.)

- If there’s a time hook associated with your pitch (e.g. an album release or exhibition opening) please make sure that is highlighted in the pitch.

- Don’t worry if your pitch will go in print or online only. If it’s going in print, we’ll make sure you’re aware of the word count, but our rates aren’t affected by where the story lives.

- Speaking of rates, they range from $250 - $750 based on the amount of work, reporting, sources, time etc. that a story requires.

LGBTQ, BIPOC, Indigenous, Latin, incarcerated, Disabled, and unhoused people are especially welcome to pitch.
Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary
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Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary

By Mars Johnson