The New York Times. Few markets have the cachet or the draw of this world-reknowned newspaper, and many freelancers dream of cracking this market. It's not just the money but the notoriety and yes, the exposure, that is so valuable for freelancers (I know of at least one writer whose feature in the Times led to a book deal--the editor saw the piece, liked it, and contacted him directly.)
So I thank veteran writer Caitlin Kelly for today's guest post. Kelly has also written for Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Smithsonian and More and is the winner of a Canadian National Magazine Award. She blogs at www.broadsideblog.wordpress.com, with more than 10,200 readers worldwide. She's the author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail and Blown Away: American Women and Guns.
For many ambitious writers, a New York Times byline may seem a distant
dream. But for those of us who frequently write for the Times -- my byline appears
usually once or twice a month, writing for them since 1990 – it’s a market worth
breaking into. A Times byline offers
serious journalistic street cred, prestige, and guaranteed visibility among assigning
editors of books, magazine,s newspapers and digital media, most of whom read
that newspaper every day.
If you’re not reading it regularly, get
to know the various sections and how much they differ in tone and content; a
fun, light-hearted story for the Styles section isn’t a Sunday front-page,
(called the dress page), feature for the Business section, (internally known as
The paper also shifts gears fairly often, with
freelance opportunities arriving and departing as editors internally shift
responsibilities. If you read the paper carefully and often, you’ll be able to
spot these and jump quickly.
Since starting to write for the Times doing short book reviews, I’ve
written for sports, real estate, home, Metropolitan, business, (for four different
editors and sections within that department), special sections, science and
automotive. (There’s also Styles, OpEd, Sunday Review, Education Life and Arts
& Leisure to consider.)
Times editors all share a few key
copy is 100 percent accurate and you have fact-checked it thoroughly before filing
You have no conflicts of interest, and have signed the Times’ long and detailed freelancers’ code of ethics and agree to
abide by its rules
You’re selling a work made for hire and your copy may appear in the Times International Edition or elsewhere
for no additional payment
editors for each section need you to suggest sources willing/able to be
photographed and to share their contact information
You’ll be sent a “playback”, the edited version of your story, and must read it
as soon as you get it, fixing
anything they have asked you to address
Once your story is scheduled for publication – typically for a weekly section
or column – you and your sources are readily available to address and answer
every question right away
You’re ready to answer questions from multiple editors as your piece moves
through the editing process, from assigning editor to copy editors
You won’t be paid until your story runs, even if it is held for weeks or
They pay by direct deposit, and usually within a few
days or week of publication.
They need copy! Whether a meaty feature for Sunday
Business – 2,500 words or more – or a feature for Dining or Homes or Styles, Times editors rely heavily on a team of
talented, trust-worthy freelancers. Pay varies widely, but can reach $1/word,
usually more for their magazines, T
and The New York Times Magazine.
This is a smart, worldly crowd. They know their
stuff and expect you to know yours as well.
They need writers who won’t let them down. If you’ve
done terrific work for one section and editor, that internal reference will be
useful when introducing yourself to another one there.
Having worked for three big daily
papers as a reporter, The Globe and Mail,
The Montreal Gazette and the New York
Daily News, I love writing for newspaper editors. They’re clear and
straightforward and, once they know you’re solid, are usually happy to work
with you again.
****Want more of Caitlin Kelly's insights about smart reporting and writing? She is offering six 90-minute
webinars May 10 and 17th by Skype: blogging, thinking like a
reporter, personal essay, freelancing, developing ideas and interviewing. She's helped satisfied students from all over the world. Please visit caitlinkelly.com for details.