The Open Notebook is a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to support science, environmental, and health journalists at all experience levels to sharpen their skills.
They do this through story-behind-the-story interviews, annotations, a database of successful news and feature pitches, and more.
Submission Guidelines For The Open Notebook
- Their accommodation for assigning stories is limited, but they welcome pitches for story behind-the-story interviews and reported features.
- Stories about the craft of science journalism are what they publish. They do not publish stories about an area of scientific research or interviews with scientists about their science.
- Please familiarize yourself with their publication before pitching.
- They will not respond to pitches written by ChatGPT. It is extremely easy for them to tell when a piece of text is written by AI. Pitches written by AI will not receive a response.
- Send a brief (no more than 500 words) query letter describing your idea, what makes it right for The Open Notebook. Also, include how you plan to approach the story.
Your pitch should describe:
- Why do you think this story is important and suitable for The Open Notebook?
- How it goes beyond what has already been done on the subject, at TON or elsewhere.
- The proposed story’s angle: What are the key questions you will ask and address? (And what, based on your pre-reporting, are some of the likely answers to those questions?)
- Elements that the piece is likely to include, as well as some of the sources that you may interview.
- Note that TON stories typically include a heavy focus on science journalism craft, so they expect writers to offer lots of concrete, nuts-and-bolts strategies and tools that people can apply to their work.
- They are very intentional about including sources with relevant expertise/experience who represent historically underrepresented communities and perspectives, as well as sources outside the U.S., including in low-income and middle-income countries.
- If you’re pitching a story-behind-the-story Q&A interview, please provide some indication of why you think the story is noteworthy and what kinds of questions you’d like to raise with the writer, bearing in mind, again, their focus on science journalism craft.
- Your background/credentials, and if possible, include links to a few pieces of your published work.
- Please include your pitch in the body of your email (not as an attachment) and email it to [email protected].
- If you don’t receive a reply to your query after 10 days, please contact them by email to make sure they received the pitch.
Their Editorial Process
- If you are assigned a story, you can expect a rigorous editing process. Most stories published at The Open Notebook go through several rounds of substantive editing as well as copyediting and fact-checking.
- Once scheduled, their stories hew to a tight editorial and production timeline. They depend on writers to meet their deadlines and to communicate promptly about any anticipated delays in the writing, editing, or fact-checking stages.
- Not doing so leads to production delays, increases the risk of errors being introduced into rushed copy, and requires members of their team and/or other freelancers to adjust their schedules to compensate.
Source Diversity Tracking
- They are committed to including diverse sources in their stories so that they can accurately capture the range of people whose voices, perspectives, and expertise are relevant to our stories.
- As part of each TON assignment, reporters are asked to collect certain demographic information from their sources; they provide step-by-step instructions for doing this and the process is very quick and simple.
- All such questions are completely optional for sources, and responses are kept completely confidential.
They pay promptly upon acceptance of the final draft. Currently, they pay the following rates:
- $1,200 for interviews (assigned at 1,500-2,000 words.)
- $2,000 for reported features (assigned at 1,500-2,000 words.)
More questions? Please visit their website.