If you hear about something in the news or in your community that you think might make a good documentary for us to do on the radio, drop us an email. Links to relevant articles are appreciated.
If you're pitching a story you're hoping to tell on the air yourself, let us know what happened in a page or two. For some stories just a few paragraphs are fine. You don't need to be formal about it, just tell the story the way you'd tell it to someone over drinks or coffee. If you have favorite moments in the story, let us know those. Tell us anything you think will help us understand what a great story it is. If the story happened to you and showed you something about the world you hadn't realized before, or changed you (or the other people in the story) in some way, let us know that too.
Here are some real pitches we got that were effective and made it into the show. They all do a few things that helped us say yes to them. First, each of these stories is a story in the most traditional sense: there are characters in some situation, and a conflict. These pitchers are clear about who the characters are and what the conflict is. Also: each of these stories raises some bigger question or issue, some universal thing to think about. That's also pretty important, and you stand a better chance at getting on the air if you let us know what that is too.
Finally, they're brief. Some people send us massive tomes, multiple tomes. Some send us books or hour-long documentaries. We mean well, but we're a small staff and simply don't have the time to read or watch or listen to lots of lengthy material. So help us say yes to you by selecting a short, self-contained section that might make a nice radio story and send us a couple paragraphs describing that section. Maybe include the excerpt as an attachment. Assume anything over 12 pages will not be read. If you have a hard time choosing an excerpt, then spend a page or two explaining what your book or documentary is about, and telling us a few of your favorite moments. If you have some ongoing project on your website or blog that you think might be interesting on the show, don't just send us a link to your archives - paste a few choice excerpts into your pitch. Help us love you! Help us find your best, most radio-friendly material! One important thing to note: we do fact-check all our stories, including the smaller, more personal stories, so please keep that in mind when pitching.
Other dos and don'ts: Don't send in audio. If we like your pitch, we'll ask for it or send you out with professional gear to get it. If you're a writer or journalist and you want to report this story yourself, let us know that. Pitch just one thing per email, and don't deluge us with pitches. Don't send us essays. By "essays" we mean your thoughts on your kid entering school or on rudeness in movie theaters or on what the President should say to gays. (All of these things have been pitched to us.) There are other radio shows that do that kind of thing. We do stories with a plot.
Email your pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will only contact you if your idea works for a forthcoming show. Know that we do definitely read and consider these emails, and that it's the most senior producers on staff who look at them, not the most junior. Every second or third episode of our show has a story we learned of through a "storypitch" email, so these emails are important to us.
Please note: we no longer accept submissions by mail. Mailed submissions will not be read, acknowledged or returned.
Other correspondence, such as donations or comments about past episodes, may be sent to:
This American Life
153 West 27th Street, Suite 1104
New York, NY 10001