Village Voice Memo To Freelancers: Don’t Bust Our Balls

Since we at mediabistro are in the business of helping writers, particularly freelancers, gain an edge in the industry, we thought this would be a good cautionary tale for those of you pitching stories to publications.

Village Voice editor Tony Ortega published an open memo today to any freelance writers potentially interested in pitching to his paper. His message is crystal clear: don’t #$%& it up for yourselves, yo. (Roughly paraphrased.)

Ortega points to one freelancer in particular as an example of what not to do when pitching a story idea to an editor. First, Ortega explains that he has, as most publications do, a tight budget when it comes to paying freelancers for their work, so only the best stories usually past muster. He then tells the tale of one freelancer — let’s call him “Buster” — who pitched a postmortem on Air America, without having spoken to any any former Air America hosts or producers. It was a gamble and likely not a story that would gather a healthy amount of interest in the first place, so Ortega passed.

And, then, he received this, from Buster:

Not trying to be a punk
Just don’t get it

My pitch has built in buzz. Not saying it’s the be all end all, but
it’d be a “fun” postmortem, with ample dirt and ballbusting

Versus a Tilda Swinton cover


Oof. Not exactly the sort of gracious, mature reply that helps a writer get a foot in the door rather than in his mouth. Freelancers: a polite “thanks for your time / reponse” will suffice.

On the plus side, at least Buster can say he’s been published on the Village Voice‘s website after all.