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Editors

Dear editor,

I know there must be a good reason why you haven’t responded to anything I’ve sent you. I wrote a pithy email pitch and then followed-up twice Seattle_Daily_Times_news_editor_quarters_-_1900but you never replied. I bought quality paper, fine envelopes and pitched you another story but this time sent it using snail mail. I followed-up with two telephone calls which – of course – hit voice mail. Still nothing. I even laid-out another pitch on my website, compete with a couple of funky graphics, a photo or two and a short video explaining the idea. My thought was that since everyone is in a time crunch a query email doesn’t get any shorter than one sentence and a link. Silence.

I guess I could lie down in front of the building where you work to gain your attention. But then you might just step around me like the Levite did in the story of the Good Samaritan. Sorry for the unintended slander… the Levite, who was an officious bastard so self-important that normal human feeling was a worthwhile sacrifice, at least noticed the one on the ground in the parable. I don’t mean to be unfair to him in this comparison. And what’s more, I can’t afford the airfare to fling myself at your office door. There must be a better way of professional communication?

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I am sure there are many solid reasons why you completely ignore me. Perhaps I am sending my pitches to an unmonitored email address although why it would contain your name and not be tended is a puzzle. Perhaps you are so busy and get so many pitches you can’t respond to them all.  Maybe your department is chronically short staffed and any sort of reply would mean you would have to live at the office 24/7 just to Freelance-guyhandle the volume (which is probably how they feel at Walmart… so busy staffing the till that there’s no time to stock the shelves anymore). Or maybe you are simply rude, never managed to learn communication etiquette along the way and don’t give a damn. After all, freelancers are a pain the ass… until you need one. A bit irksome, I must admit, is the way your non-response conveys the sense that you are the only one who is busy and that those of us sending pitches have nothing better to do than craft reminders that part of your job is to respond to people.

I am sure my pitch is just one of a hundred story proposals you got today. The fact that mine is focused and close to the subject areas and tone of your section of your publication doesn’t matter – it’s still 1 out of 100. The idea that 30+ years of freelancing, the experience of writing thousands of articles for dozens of publications around the world, has a way of shaping queries so that they are targeted, to-the-point and designed to present an idea with brevity in a way that doesn’t waste time, is irrelevant. I guess I don’t know how many people out there now call themselves writers/reporters/journalists/freelancers and since I am just one out of thousands, how can I expect personalized attention. Experience doesn’t matter.

freelancedreamWhat you are saying when you say nothing is that you don’t need people like me anymore. Those with ability, a sense of the craft who can produce on topic, to length and deadline and have quaint notions of independence are dinosaurs.  There are lots of pliable people who write bland copy which likely means less work for you. Additionally, there are PR firms who write great content for their clients and offer it at no cost. It’s so good you can run it like editorial. It’s reasonably balanced and anyway, it costs nothing. It’s hard to compete.

Especially by those who harp that there used to be some dignity in this profession. There used to be the sense that the way you deal with people – even freelancers – reflects on you and the brand for which you work. That old fashioned notions of impartiality, excellence and diversity of voice mattered.

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Admittedly a certain sense of self is a prerequisite of the job you hold. If you didn’t know every cavity and fold of your navel you wouldn’t be the editor on the receiving end of a tsunami of pitches. But dipping into the shallow well of pity freelance writing successalready drained by celebrities who complain about all the attention they receive is bound to leave you thirsty. And as freelancers know, complaining leads to being ignored… or in your case, it might lead to being fired due to yet another round of corporate restructuring. When you do lose your job and hang out your shingle as a freelancer, send me an email. I don’t hold grudges. I’ll get back to you right away.  it’s what real people do.