As a freelance writer in Africa, daily I scour Twitter for spaces where editors call for pitches. Nothing disappoints me more than the expectation from U.S. editors that every story pitch “must have a U.S. angle, cater at least to U.S. audiences, or be pegged to U.S. events.”
It’s as if the rest of the world only exists through American news angles. But first I must admit that the U.S. is the world’s largest media territory with almost 1,279 daily newspapers according to Statista.com. As I have quickly learned in my career, the earnings of a freelance writer anywhere in the world will be largely funded by fees from U.S. publications. In my case, the majority of my writing goes to U.S.-based publications, including The Body, Newsweek, Baptist News Global, Rest of World, and dozens more. My daily search for freelance pitching opportunities is composed of scouring U.S.-based Twitter handles like @writersofcolor and @womenwriterswin.
So, yes, I have profited by U.S. editors. But I’m annoyed by the common expectation of U.S. editors that each story pitch must have some sort of American audience interest, something “relatable to U.S. readers,” for the pitch to even be heard. I am not the only one annoyed by this. I have heard European freelancers, too, asking publicly, “Dear editor X and X and X, must our pitches be centered in the U.S.?” I have been told in private emails by senior editors at U.S. publications, in one example, “Hi Audrey, it’s an unwritten rule that U.S. editors expect your pitch to be pegged towards issues U.S. readers are familiar with.”
Argh! That the English-language media is heavily concentrated in the U.S. because of sheer audience numbers and media money puts an oppressive layer of expectations on writers who are based outside of the U.S. We are expected to bend our opinions, research, and words towards angles foreign to us. I felt this when I wrote for a prominent U.S. publication about diplomacy in South Africa; to make it relatable to U.S. readers I included Jeff Flake the ex-U.S. senator and his views of South Africa. Thus was my article accepted and published by this prestigious publication, because there was the so-called “American angle.”
Because of this hunger for a U.S. angle, each time editors put up a call for pitches on Twitter, before emailing our pitches we must first ask, “Hey, editor so-and-so, are you interested in the writer’s own background and angle, or must each pitch have a U.S. angle?” It’s draining to ask for clarity instead of simply pitching, and it would be better if U.S. editors who put up calls for pitches on Twitter also put upfront a disclosure: “Hey writers, this call is for U.S.-angle stories.” At least that way we will know upfront instead of wasting our time pitching.
The attitude from U.S. editors that every interesting story/pitch must have a U.S. angle is an extension of the paternalistic global attitude of the U.S. elite thinking that there is no more interesting world out there than the U.S. and that the only media story that matters is one happening in the U.S. No wonder, NBC or CNN or CBS thinks that the story of Will Smith and his misbehavior at the Oscars is more important than say, historic floods in Pakistan.
3 October, 2022