Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Independent Journalists Discuss How To Pitch Stories and Clients For Powerful Media Placement

Independent Editors and writers say
“read the trades, and know what
you are pitching"


Mc Quade
West Coast
Bureau Chief

“What helps me the most when pitching my clients, which are mostly celebrity driven, is to know the magazine you want me to pitch to and understand their needs and give me a story tat is focus directly toward what that magazine reports on,” said Scott Huver, a full-time freelance writer/reporter for both print and on-camera. Huver was amongst an Entertainment Publicists Professional Society (EPPS) media workshop at the International Cinematographers Local 600 auditorium, Hollywood, CA (Sept. 19, 2009).  

It’s all about trust
between a publicist and working
member of the press said Independent
Journalist Janice Littlejohn and Scott Huver.


Huver’s primary clients include People Magazine/, TV Guide Magazine, InStyle, Los Angeles Confidential, Giant Magazine, and “I get a lot of generic pitches that I can’t really do anything with, because I don’t know how to spin it until I get more information. Everyone has a very select and specific editorial viewpoint.” 
“I like stories on writers such as screenwriters or fiction,” explained Debra Eckerling, who has freelanced for more than 10 years and has written for local, national, trade and online publications, with a specialty in entertainment and lifestyle. She is the eZine editor for and has her own writers website, where she interviews authors twice a week and provides additional content for writers. “I too, like interesting stories. It’s great if its current, but I’m also aware that maybe a book came out a month ago, but it’s something people need to know about.”

Eckerling has also freelanced for iMedia Connection, Only Child, The Jewish Journal and Script magazine among others. She is the co-host of parties, an excellent resource for publicists as well as writers from New York, to San Francisco to Hollywood, CA.
“I do features in front of the book, profiles and a lot of behind the scenes,” said Libby Slate, who covers the performing arts, television and other forms of entertainment for Performances magazine, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Television Academy’s award-winning Emmy magazine as well as the Academy websites and “I’m not always interested in the star of a movie, show or play, but the most interesting story.”

Slate has written nearly 300 articles for the Los Angeles Times. Her credits include TV Guide, Hollywood Reporter Magazine, Disney Magazine, Soap Opera Digest, Los Angeles and Skating, the U.S. Figure Skating Assn.’s magazine.

“I do a lot on what production designers are doing,” said Slate, who recently wrote a story on the Tonight Show set. “I also did a story on the set of Doll House, so it’s not the technical aspect like editing, but it’s the artistic part of the craft.”

“I’m always pitching, because that’s my paycheck,” said Freelancer Susan L. Hornik, who contributes to Good Housekeeping, First for Women, Modern Bridge, Your Prom, Stylehive, Twist, Maxim, MomLogic, Canada’s Inside e and CBS’s Watch to name a few.

Hornik said, “Things are not always in front of you (referring to a story) so you have to stay ahead of the game, even if it means new media like Twitter, because you never know who will be your next boss.” Hornik says magazines are paying more attention to their websites, so she has to think out of the “proverbial box.” For example, during intermission she inquired about receipts from the snack bar. “Intermission bars and snacks were bringing $1 million a year. I found it to be a fascinating story,” she noted.

“I get my best interviews in the restrooms,” said Sue Facter.  For the past three decades, Factor has been interviewing celebs, first in New York and then in LA. Factor current writes for: NY Daily News, Liz Smith, Star Ledger, Women’s Day Australia and her work has appeared in USA Today, People LA Times, NY Post and Entertainment Weekly. Her newest column is called the Travel Factor and will soon appear in And she was George Clooney’s publicist.
“Know your publication,” said Janice Rhosalle Littlejohn, a freelance journalist specializing in entertainment, media, lifestyle and culture. Her work appears regularly in Multichannel News, TV Guide Magazine and Emmy magazine.  She has also done work for The Associated Press, the LA Times, USA today, In Style, Essence and other publications. “I am actually flattered if a publicist calls and knows what I write about.”  Littlejohn said she doesn’t like cold pitches. “I don’t mind a phone pitch, but not harassing call,” adding “most editors and writers don’t like the cold calls anymore.” “I often get calls from publicists saying, ‘I have this wonderful client.’ “Well, they all are, but tell me what’s so great about them, and why they would be appropriate for whatever publication I write for.”

Littlejohn said she did a lot of behind the scenes work for The Associated Press. “However, with the unfortunate thing about the economic downturn as I guess we call it today is AP is no longer using freelance work. Media Bistro has good events, where writers and editors talk about movement, where people are and who’s laying off whom from NY to Los Angeles. It is important to keep up with the stuff, because my editors are moving from place to place and they take us with them,” she said.

 “I look for the celebrity client,” said Facter. “It could be a charity, and you would be surprised to see how much your client is connected to a celebrity, even if they’re not a celebrity as they have some spokesman, so I also look for the story that no one has talk about and anything involving a celebrity. Underneath the temple is more gold, you just have to look for it.”

EPPS Media Workshop Moderator Flo Selfman emphasizes the importance of building good relationships with independent journalists, which spells major media placement.


“The publicist knows more about the celebrity than almost anyone,” said Moderator Flo Selfman, owner of Selfman & Others Pro. Flo has handled celebrities, theatre and arts events, and book and author tours for more than 20 years. “They know more than the celebrity’s manager,” said Selfman. ‘You have an arsenal of material in your head, and you can keep coming up with another piece of information or another angle, and pretty soon the writer is going to say, ‘Yea, let’s go with that one.”

     EPPS & ICG Local 600 Sponsored Media Workshop
“It’s important to know the bylines of the writers you are pitching, because most of them, especially now, are freelancing. All the panelists prefer email pitches.

Scott Huver:
Janice Rhosalle Littlejohn:
Debra Eckerling:
Libby Slate:
Susan L. Hornik:
Sue Facter:
Flo Selfman: