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How to Pitch The Appeal

About The Appeal

The Appeal is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to exposing how the U.S. criminal legal system fails to keep people safe and perpetuates harm. Our work shows the human and economic costs of our expansive carceral system, equips people with the tools to make change, and elevates solutions that seek to create a safer society without clinging to punitive responses.

We produce fact-based reporting and analysis that center the voices of the people affected most by our country’s over-reliance on policing, jails, and prisons. We have a special focus on communities and policy debates often ignored by traditional national media, or lost in the consolidation and closure of local news outlets.

What’s an Appeal story?

The Appeal’s stories and weekly newsletter cover the criminal legal system through compelling original reporting that examines systemic issues, brings injustices to light, helps readers understand complex issues and the role of politics in policy, tracks progress, and analyzes emerging solutions.

Stories should fit into (at least one) of seven areas of coverage: 

We are also interested in immigration-focused stories that intersect with any of our coverage areas.

The Appeal centers the voices of impacted communities and looks for freelance pitches and writers who do the same. If relevant, stories should also explain why problems occurred (and their systemic causes); identify who had and has power to address harms; and analyze potential solutions, including those supported by impacted individuals and communities.

While we have published strong investigative features, most of our favorite pieces have much shorter word counts. These pieces still expose harms, explain complicated issues, examine under-covered parts of the criminal legal system, identify systemic problems, cover specific local stories, and most of all are written with empathy.

What’s The Appeal looking for?

The Appeal currently has a limited commissioning capacity. We are currently prioritizing pitches for the following areas of coverage:

  • Politics: elections, legislation, policies, and reform efforts
  • Alternatives: critical analysis of solutions to elements of the current criminal legal system
  • Stories reporting on, and from, the South, Midwest, or rural areas
  • Op-eds and personal essays written by people impacted by the criminal-legal system (these will also be considered for our weekly newsletter column)

We also accept a limited number of first-person and commentary pieces.

We highly encourage BIPOC writers, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated writers, and other writers who face systemic barriers to pitch to The Appeal.

What isn’t The Appeal looking for?

We don’t accept pitches for:

  • Breaking news
  • Aggregation/listicles
  • Sponsored content

How much does The Appeal pay?

We pay $1/ commissioned word for reported and first-person pieces up to 2,000 words. Payment for longer pieces is negotiable.

Newsletter columns are commissioned at 800 words.

Okay, how can I pitch a story?

Please email pitches@theappeal.org and put ‘Freelance Pitch’ at the start of your subject line for for online articles. For newsletter columns, please email newsletter@theappeal.org.

What should I include in my pitch?

We want to get a good sense of who you are and what the story is while respecting your time. A good guideline (not a rule!) is if you can include the following information in 2-4 paragraphs:

  • 1-2 sentences on who you are, including links to your previous work (If you haven’t been published before, we understand. Try to include something that gives us a sense of your writing style.)
  • A working headline and/or nutgraf (aka, a paragraph that summarizes the story and tells the reader what the story is about)
  • Proposed word count (800-2,000 is our standard for online articles, newsletter columns are strictly limited to 800 words)
  • Whether there’s a news hook or need for this to run at a certain time
  • Summary of the story, including:
    • Why this is important
    • If relevant, how extensive the issue is
    • Details on potential interviewees (we prioritize diversity in sourcing)

If you are pitching a first-person essay, try to broaden your pitch out to include how your experience reflects those of other people.

We also encourage new writers to include a detailed outline or partial draft.

What happens next?

Our editorial team reads every pitch and does its best to respond within 1-2 weeks.

If your pitch is accepted, an editor on our team will reach out to confirm the angle, word count, and deadline. We will also provide a contract agreement.

Do you accept opinion pieces?

Yes. We welcome opinion, commentary, and analysis pieces by academics, lawyers, community organizers, and other experts. We generally do not accept op-eds written by or on behalf of political candidates or advocacy groups.

Please email pitches@theappeal.org.

What is The Appeal’s voice?

Our reporting is authoritative and clear without being jargon-heavy, and empathetic without compromising on accuracy. Our audience ranges from legal experts and scholars to the general public, so we cater our language to those without specialized knowledge of the criminal legal system. Our editors will work with you to match our tone. 

I’ve already written a draft. Can I send that?

Please do! Just make sure to still introduce yourself and include a summary of the piece in your email.

When do I get paid?

You will be paid within 30 days of invoicing.

If The Appeal chooses not to run your piece after you have submitted a draft, we will pay according to the terms outlined in your writer’s agreement