Welcome to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, and thank you for pitching us.
Our newsroom focuses on stories about Big Ag and its impact on labor (particularly migrant and immigrant labor), government and the environment. We’re also interested in stories about rural life, particularly the mental health of farmers.
We generally focus on the Midwest (as defined by the Census) but are open to stories about Big Ag in other regions.
We strive to use data and documents in all of our reporting, so we’re particularly interested in stories that involve analysis of an interesting data set or records obtained through FOIA or state public records requests, or both.
Our stories typically run between 800-2,000 words. Pay is commensurate with experience.
Email your pitches to Sky Chadde at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll respond in two-four weeks. If you don’t hear from us within a month, feel free to follow-up. Please also include a resume and a few examples of your past work.
If your pitch is accepted, expect hands-on editing and a thorough fact-checking process, including providing contact information for sources and any documents you’ve obtained.
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR:
News features: Typically shorter stories that tackle one aspect of agribusiness, labor on farms or fields, or the environment. These stories can include data but don’t necessarily have to if the interviews are strong enough to carry the piece.
Examples include this story about COVID-19’s effect on farmers’ mental health and this story about the EPA sidestepping its normal regulatory process to approve a cancer-causing pesticide.
Data analysis: Stories that are centered around an analysis of a large dataset either downloaded from a government website or obtained through FOIA. Whenever possible, these stories should also include the voices of the people behind the data.
Examples include this story about more and more agricultural land being owned by foreign investors and this story about one particular area hit hard by farm bankruptcies.
All stories based on data require the reporter to submit a data diary, a step-by-step guide to how they analyzed the data (we can provide examples of data diaries we find useful). We are also happy to help with data analysis.
Investigations: These are longer, more in-depth stories that blend documents, data, interviews and possibly on-the-ground reporting (note: we do not expect — or want — on-the-ground reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic). These types of stories showcase an abuse of power, or a governmental failing, or a clear victim of a system.
Examples include this story about Monsanto and other seed companies paying contractors that abuse field workers and this two-part story about how the state of Missouri failed to protect H2-A workers from suffering abuse.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR PITCH
A one- to two-sentence summary of your story. At a glance, we should understand the gist of the story you’re pitching.
What stage of the reporting process you’re in. Have you spoken to all the stakeholders? Are you waiting on FOIAs to come in? Max 200 words.
What data are you using in your story or what data do you want to get. If the data is available online, please provide a link to the data. If it’s not, please provide a description of the data and what federal or state agency maintains it. Max 200 words.
What documents do you have or what documents do you want to get. Please provide a description of the documents and include what federal or state agency will produce them. If you don’t have the documents, please explain how the documents would bolster the story. Max 300 words.
Tell us whether you plan to use anonymous sources. If you do, we’ll need to know who they are and we’ll need to decide whether they deserve anonymity. Also, if you do, please provide a brief description of why you believe anonymity is important. Max 300 words.
A longer explanation of your story. Please provide a more detailed description that gives us a sense of what unique things you’ve found and what potential impact you’re hoping to have with the story. Max 500 words.
A Google News search. Please let us know if any other similar stories have been published recently and by what news organization(s). Please just provide the links, if there are any.
A resume and previous work samples. To give us a sense of your experience and level of expertise.