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The Dispatch’s Freelance Submission Guidelines
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The Dispatch’s Freelance Submission Guidelines

How outside contributors can pitch us stories and essays.

The Dispatch is proud to feature contributions from a wide array of freelance reporters and writers, many of whom have published with us regularly for years. That said, we receive far more submissions than we can accept. Below are some guidelines explaining what we look for from our freelancers, along with some tips to give your pitches the greatest chance of being published.

  • Be sure to read our founding manifesto: Since our launch in 2019, we’ve done our best to adhere to the principles outlined by Steve and Jonah in this document. Of particular note: “When we provide analysis, we endeavor to describe the opposing points of view with honesty and charity. When we report, we do so without concern for whether the facts prove inconvenient to any party or politician. We test our own assumptions and, we hope, challenge our readers to do the same.” We appreciate humor and incisive writing, not snark or cynicism.
  • Ensure your piece has a long shelf life: As Steve and Jonah noted in the manifesto, we’re not interested in chasing the news cycle—and that’s particularly true regarding freelance pieces. If your article is going to be out of date in a few days—or even in a week or two—we’re probably not the right home for it. Ensure that pieces include broader themes that are relevant beyond the immediate news hook.
  • Send us analysis, not op-eds: There’s a place in the media ecosystem for the 500- to 800-word takedown of a specific piece of legislation or presidential action, but it’s generally not in our pages. We’re more interested in pieces that take the extra time to provide context and understanding, exploring all sides of a given issue. As a general rule, articles titled “[Person/Institution] Must [Take Certain Action]”—or articles that could be titled that way—are not the best fit for us. Regarding word count, the sweet spot for freelance pieces is generally somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 words. If you’d like to write something longer than that, consider sending us a summary of your argument first.
  • Fact check yourself: Our editors will give pieces as thorough a look as they can, but the author is ultimately responsible for ensuring the information included is factual and accurate. Double-check everything, linking to sources—particularly primary sources—as often as possible. If we notice factual errors in a pitch, we are significantly less likely to accept it.
  • Write for a general audience: While The Dispatch has plenty of readers inside the Beltway, we work hard to ensure all our pieces are accessible to a general audience. That means no unexplained insider or industry jargon and extra emphasis on explanation and context. Articles should clarify—preferably early on—why the issue they’re focused on matters and why a reader should care about it.
  • Avoid redundancies: With limited editorial budget and bandwidth, we want to ensure we are not duplicating efforts. As such, freelance contributions should complement what our writers are already doing in-house. Before you submit a pitch, peruse our archives and ensure we haven’t already published something similar. Topics on which we often turn to freelancers include: national security, foreign policy, economics, education, law, technology, science, public health, film and books, religion, philosophy, and intellectual history.
  • Explain why you are the best person to write on this topic: Do you have subject-matter expertise or other relevant experience? Have you published work on this topic in other reputable publications? Let us know—and include links where applicable.
  • Be open to edits: In addition to ensuring stylistic consistency, comprehensible structure, and grammatical and factual accuracy, our editing process focuses on bridging the gap between what a writer wants and what our readers need. You can withdraw your piece at any point before publication, but our editors have the final say over what The Dispatch publishes.

Once you have read the above guidelines, you can submit your pitches by clicking here. Please include a brief description of the piece, a few sentences about why you are the best person to write it, and why The Dispatch is the best place to publish it. 

While we do our best to review every submission, we cannot guarantee a response. If you haven’t heard from us within three business days of submitting your piece, feel free to offer it to other publications.