The founding editor (2008) for UrbanDaddy Chicago, Chicago native Chris LaMorte has also written for or edited a number of Tribune publications, such as Metromix and RedEye Chicago. Covering men's-interest topics and trends within "aspirational and connoisseur lifestyles" such as nightlife, style, dining and entertainment, UrbanDaddy publishes daily online content in twelve cities, reaching more than four million members. The constant deadlines and rapid lifecycle of a daily digital don't have much room for the uncommitted. In a phone interview with CAR Editor JC Steinbrunner (excerpted below), LaMorte lays out his expectations for working with editors short on time, long on stress and looking for writers who can slip into the mix without the hand-holding.
When I was at Metromix (2003-2008), I got a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I’m not going to take a pitch very seriously if it’s addressed informally, like I’m a friend or a colleague, like “Hey Chris.” I don’t know you. I’ve never published you. I don’t know your work. Just how seriously are you taking the pitch? Is there a semblance of the rules of business correspondence? Put your best foot forward. Pitch in a professional, clean way.
Pitch yourself along with your story.
Pitch yourself along with your story. If I haven’t worked with you before, send me one-to-two representative samples along with your résumé.
The bar is low enough that I’ll keep reading a pitch if there are complete sentences. I don’t even care what your pitching: if it’s not spelled correctly, I’m not going to bother. It’s not worth my time if a freelancer is going to require “heavy lifting”—a lot of back-and-forth between editor and writer. It should go without saying that your pitch should be spelled correctly, grammatically correct and coherent.
At UrbanDaddy we get PR pitches. [One] topic is fishing. “Do you ever do any stories on X or Y broad-subject-area?” If you want to know if I do stories on a certain topic, read our publication. Do you know what we write about? Broad topics are a turn-off. You tell me if I ever do stories on this. I get pitches all the time for UrbanDaddy about topics we don’t cover. People pitch me stories for cool dads or things dads love. We have nothing to do with fatherhood.
Think like an editor. Editors need less stress.
Think like an editor. Editors need less stress. Have a general thesis defined and sources or examples of what will be included. You should have laid some groundwork already. It’s okay to work with an editor—for them to define the parameters of the article—but you should come in with research already done.
It’s important to have a bit of a thick skin and not take edits personally.
Writers should be prepared for questions. You are going to have more research. You should be available for answers to questions in a reasonable turnaround and be available for a re-write. You may need to tighten this or clarify that or change the order of the entire article. You need to be prepared, especially if you haven’t worked with a particular editor before.
It’s important to have a bit of a thick skin and not take edits personally. Sometimes this is extraordinarily difficult to do. With a highly stylized voice like UrbanDaddy, you’re probably going to see more edits in the style. That’s okay. You want to try to minimize the amount of polishing that needs to happen, but you have to take your ego out of the equation and try to understand why an editor is editing you in a specific way.
After a story publishes, see what edits were made and why those edits were made. Your process doesn’t end when the story is filed, it ends when you understand the difference between how the story was filed and how it was published. Follow up with the editor and ask questions. Get any feedback he is willing to give. Demonstrate that you are serious and thoughtful, and that this is your craft.
Chris LaMorte is the Chicago editor of UrbanDaddy.com, and covers dining, entertainment and lifestyle for various media outlets. A Chicago-area native, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from DePaul University and a Master of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.