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Freelancing At Block Club Chicago

The Block Club Chicago staff in summer 2022.
Alex Garcia/Block Club Chicago

Block Club Chicago is actively looking for freelancers who want to tell stories about the city’s neighborhoods. Here’s how to pitch us.

About Block Club

Block Club Chicago is a nonprofit, reader-funded newsroom dedicated to delivering reliable, nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

Our newsroom was founded in 2018 by former DNAinfo Chicago editors and reporters after the award-winning site abruptly closed. We decided to call ourselves Block Club because we felt it reflected our mission: to build community through truly ground-level reporting of the city’s neighborhoods.

In just four years, Block Club has transformed from scrappy startup to one of the most-read news organizations in Chicago by being responsive to the city’s neighborhoods. Our team of 24 full-time journalists publish more than a dozen stories daily from every corner of the city and inform Chicagoans through our neighborhood newsletters, “It’s All Good” podcast, “On The Block” TV show and free, bilingual COVID-19 hotline.

The Stories We Tell

Block Club focuses on stories from and about Chicago’s neighborhoods, whether that be a feature on a man who gardens to revitalize the neighborhood, a breaking news story about a beloved business closing or community meeting coverage.

You can read our latest stories here to get a feel for what we’re looking for. Before pitching a story, please search our website to ensure it is not a story we have already covered.

Stories should be deeply relevant to Chicago’s neighborhoods. Stories should also be unique — we don’t want to run the same story other publications already have. As Block Club is a daily news publication, stories should also be relatively timely/newsy.

Block Club does not run opinion pieces, personal essays, travel stories, reviews, Q&As or sports play-by-plays.

How To Pitch Stories

While we do occasionally reach out to freelancers with stories we’d like them to cover, we love when freelancers pitch us stories from their communities.

You can pitch stories to Pitches@BlockClubChi.org. In your subject, please say, “FREELANCER PITCH.” If you are working on a tight deadline, please note that in the subject.

In the body of the email, please include this information:

  • Concisely describe the story, its connection to Chicago and its neighborhoods, as well as any other information we need to know.
  • Describe the story’s timeliness/news peg, as well as when you expect you could turn it into editors.
  • Describe the expected length (in word count) of the story.
  • Please say which sources you have spoken to or intend to speak to for the story and/or what information you have gathered or need to gather.
  • If you have art or have ideas for potential art (photos, infographics, etc.), please say.
  • If you are new to Block Club, please also provide a short description of yourself and your journalistic experience, with links to published clips if possible.

One of Block Club’s editors will reply to your pitch if we are interested in pursuing the story.

We may not be able to reply to every email since we’re a small team. We may also receive pitches similar to yours, or one of our reporters may already be working on a similar story.

Note: After we’ve worked together, Block Club editors might start reaching out to you to ask if you’re interested in covering a story for us. But please also feel free to keep pitching us your own ideas!

Working Together

If Block Club accepts your pitch, an editor will discuss with you the deadline, rate, story expectations and other pertinent information for the story.

We ask that our freelancers contact editors if they expect to miss a deadline, have an update, have a concern, etc. Freelancers are welcome to reach out if they need guidance about writing the story, help contacting sources, etc. We try to keep our lines of communication open and respond promptly when possible.

Freelancers should expect for their stories and proposed headlines to be edited. We will talk through any extensive edits. Freelancers should also expect for their work to be fact checked, with editors requesting verification of certain materials if necessary.

Freelancers should disclose any possible conflicts of interest. They should not promise anonymity, a publication date, etc. to sources without first speaking to an editor.

If edits, corrections or updates are necessary after publication, you will inform us — or vice versa — and they will be made as needed by a Block Club editor.

Your byline will be affixed to the story, with other writers/contributors credited as appropriate. We might ask you for a headshot to include with your byline.

We typically ask reporters to submit their story as a Google Doc, with photos, if necessary, attached separately (either attached to an email, in a Google Drive folder, etc.).

Rates & Deadline

Freelance rates vary based on length and complexity of the story, expected scope, etc., and will be negotiated and agreed upon if Block Club accepts your pitch.

Your editor will also negotiate the deadline with you when accepting a story. We expect you to inform an editor ahead of time if you will miss the deadline.

Once your story is filed, we will sign you up with our payment system, Justworks. You should submit an invoice for your story or stories by emailing Pitches@BlockClubChi.org. Here is an example invoice you can copy and use as needed. We will then pay you through Justworks. Block Club strives to pay its freelancers quickly (typically within two weeks).

In the rare instance Block Club chooses not to run your story after you have filed it, we will pay a kill fee. Block Club’s kill fee is typically half of the agreed-upon rate. Please flag to us in the initial conversation if you’d like to negotiate the kill fee rate.

Questions

Have questions? Please email Pitches@BlockClubChi.org and we’re happy to answer them.