How to Write for Pacific Standard

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

Pacific Standard publications include a bimonthly print magazine and a daily website—PSmag.com—that tell stories about society's biggest problems, both established and emerging. By combining research that matters with ambitious narrative and investigative reporting, we reveal how people, governments, corporations, institutions, and cultural groupthink perpetuate questionable private behavior and bad public policy. We're also deeply interested in the scholars, revolutionaries, policymakers, and creatives fighting for a better and more just future.

We are a great home for writers who can tell deeply reported, gripping tales about issues in the public interest while plumbing the intellectual, theoretical, and empirical context that surrounds them. Every story we tell has a strong connection to one of our four core subject areas: economic, educational, environmental, and social justice.

Our writers should want to make readers think about how society works—and about how it could be working better.

The sections we are currently in search of pitches for include:

PSMAG.COM

At PSmag.com, we publish a variety of sophisticated, fun stories—reported features, essays, columns, and more—that contain the qualities of the writing outlined in the print sections below, but are particularly suited for our digital audience. That means we run multiple pieces every weekday that respond in some way to recent news and events and/or are especially shareable on the social Web. These pieces should aim to put us among the lively conversations happening every day online and contribute to our goal of becoming a must-visit daily destination site. This is also a place to pitch ideas that are experimental or deeply unusual. Our staff has a wide array of interests, and a well-crafted pitch about a subject on the periphery of our subject areas may just work.

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

FEATURE STORIES

Pacific Standard features explore and illuminate what it means to be human: what plagues us, what thrills us, why we do what we do. The magazine publishes ambitious longform stories that are finely crafted, meticulously reported, and fueled by a bottomless curiosity about society and the relationships that sustain it. We place a high value on originality in both subject and execution, and are always looking to be surprised. The majority of our coverage revolves around four core subject areas: environment, education, economics, and social justice. While research and analysis are encouraged, we frown upon overly academic treatments, preferring instead the dynamic characters and vivid settings that are essential elements of good storytelling. We enjoy think pieces that question an assumption in our society or defend an obscure idea and help it gain prominence. Personal essays work for us when they are rooted in a cultural phenomenon, and keep one foot firmly planted in the world of ideas. Profiles work too, when the subject offers a unique perspective on a pressing issue or helps shed light on some forgotten corner of history. We like groundbreaking exposés of injustice, particularly those that attempt to increase our understanding of human relationships and the culture at large. Above all, we want stories that matter, stories that, by virtue of their ideas and their craft, are capable of making a difference in our complex and rapidly changing world.

Pacific Standard also publishes interviews and photo essays in the feature well.

FEATURES: THE PS INTERVIEW

Pacific Standard interviews feature conversations with figures of substance that represent the sophistication, political orientation, depth of character, and scope of interest of PS. Sometimes staff writers or freelancers do the interviewing; sometimes we put luminaries in conversation with each other. We're often seeking very recognizable names, but will consider less-well-known characters that have interesting ideas and compelling stories to share. We aim to publish feature-length interviews three or more times a year.

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

FEATURES: PHOTO ESSAYS

Pacific Standard photo essays relate to the magazine's core areas of interest. While some may require introductory text and/or narrative captions, the aim is to have as little text as possible in order to give the reader a primarily visual experience. Possible photo essay genres include: the photojournalism exposé, depicting some shocking thing that few people know is happening; the narrative photo essay, telling the story of a movement, journey, or event through a series of images; portraits of people or places in support of an idea or theme; or "a day in the life of…." Photo essays typically run six to eight pages, but shorter or longer ones are possible. We aim to run photo essays four or more times a year.

PRIMER: THE SMALL STUFF: THERE'S A NAME FOR THAT

A roughly 300-word burst that serves as a user's guide to a concept, typically from the social sciences. The main goal is to relate the concept to the ordinary reader's life: either to give them a nice crystallizing name for something they've subconsciously felt or noticed about the world; or to give them a brand new conceptual tool that will help them see the world, and their own lives, more clearly.

PRIMER: KNOW IT ALL

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

Know It All features research on some big, timely matter of debate or concern. Because the Supreme Court will hear its biggest affirmative action case in decades this term, for example, it could be "What You Need to Know About If You Want to Understand How Affirmative Action Impacted the Achievement Gap." You could also consider how our thinking has changed on a given topic, looking at the most influential studies from history: "How Science Changed Its Mind About the Relationship Between Race and Intelligence."

The studies cited should include the empirical work that any serious, honest participant in a discussion about the issue would want to account for, and should be the most prominent landmarks in the debate's evidentiary landscape. So, if the subject is affirmative action, you'd have Robert Putnam's study about the ill-effects of diversity on social engagement, for instance. Each blurb should have a headline that boldly states the new fact—the new premise—that each study introduces into the debate. For the Putnam study, it would be "Diversity Made Us Less Social."

A requirement of the reporting is to choose a subject and then go to experts and ask them which studies really define that landscape. Format consists of a very brief (200–250 words) introduction that explains the news hook, followed by a series of short blurbs (roughly 150 words each) and callouts to the most significant data points.

FIELD NOTES

Dispatches from unfamiliar territory

Field Notes place the reader in a dramatic moment or in an outlandish place they have never seen before: They impart a sense of discovery and immersion. With some combination of fly-on-the-wall observation, cinematic prose, and unusual dialogue, the writer is charged primarily with painting a brilliant scene, without the pressure of framing a larger story, providing background, or crafting an explicit thesis. When executed perfectly, these snapshots implicitly telegraph an idea larger than themselves and are associated with one of our core areas: the environment, education, economics, or social justice. But most importantly, the words must transport.

The best entries contain a sense of adventure, a fetish for the bizarre, and a deep understanding of character. In the tradition of classic ethnography or anthropology, Field Notes offers readers a chance to peer into a world and briefly understand its code and currencies. And like all great sociologists negotiating entrée, reporters should feel they are stepping—perhaps with some discomfort or fear—outside themselves.

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

THE FIX

Solutions, and the people working toward them

The Fix is a section in Pacific Standard that provides a space for us to highlight, in columns and accompanying sidebars and infographics, solutions to some of society's biggest problems and the people attempting to solve them. Through interpretive and critical journalism, especially on matters of politics and policy, these pieces either attempt to spotlight what's already working—or not working—or make the case for why a proposal might or might not work. At its core, The Fix is an argument, and, to make a good one, its narratives should lean on concrete evidence collected by experts in the field. There are a lot of good ideas in the world; The Fix is the one we should actually try.

We use these pages to take readers into the statehouses where new policies with the potential to impact environmental, economic, and educational concerns are being drafted first-hand; behind the scenes with individuals and organizations working to effect ambitious change; and on the road to see and experience, as best they can through a print magazine, real progress toward addressing stubborn and difficult social problems.

THE CULTURE PAGES

Where culture meets conscience

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

In Pacific Standard's Culture Pages, we examine entertainment through ideas, and ideas through entertainment—from books to film, television, podcasts, video games, museums, music, and street art—with two simple questions that guide our work: How do notions of conscience and justice energize, illuminate, or inform current cultural efforts, and how do arts lead the way in social progress?

Whether our writers are reporting a scene piece about a ride-along with a band in Malawi, or writing a conceptual essay that draws important links between (say) the latest video game and a recent book about human empathy, The Culture Pages combine traditional magazine criticism with social comment and original research to make the reader look at art and the world in a new way.

With lively, inviting prose and close attention to both aesthetics and social value, The Culture Pages address questions about art and conscience while guiding readers through the most important and compelling stories and ideas that we can find in the world of entertainment.

For this section, we are looking for a number of different types of stories: reported features or essays that cover multiple titles or media and include strong characters; book reviews that explore original ideas; and short scene pieces.

March/April 2017.

March/April 2017.

THE CULTURE PAGES: ONE LAST THING

The back page of Pacific Standard features an object and a short text explaining what the object tells us about humanity. The department gravitates between objects with hard-hitting relevance to current events and those more familiar objects we encounter every day, with an eye always on the unsung attributes or importance of the object.

WHAT WE'RE NOT LOOKING FOR

  • Press releases, journal articles, dissertations, think tank reports, or white papers.
  • Topics, or otherwise unfocused/wavering ideas.
  • Things that you haven't put a lot of thought and care into preparing.
  • Advertisements, or anything that reads like you might have been paid by a corporation or a politician to write it.
  • Pitches that do not consider or reflect upon anything outside the affluent white, male experience.
  • Stories without conflict or motion.
  • Conventional movie or music reviews; celebrity interviews.
  • Aggregation, unless it's paired with substantial original reporting.
  • Completed manuscripts, unless requested.

All Pacific Standard and PSmag.com articles should be sophisticated and engaging, should shed light on the new or the innovative, and should wear their erudition lightly. Writers receive careful, thoughtful, collegial, and stringent editing, with the aim of making sophisticated ideas and research accessible to an educated public.

It should be clear that anybody pitching us is familiar with our work and a regular reader of Pacific Standard. Subscribe to our print magazine and sign up for our free email newsletter to learn more about what we publish. Queries are welcome via email; direct pitches to pitches@psmag.com. Please note that, due to the high volume of email we receive, we cannot respond to all messages, but do meet regularly as an editorial team to discuss the most promising submissions. If you do not hear back from us within a month you should assume that your pitch wasn't right for Pacific Standard.