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Submit To New York Times' Headway 2022

Headway is a new initiative at The New York Times dedicated to exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress.

Submit To New York Times' Headway 2022

New York times headway 2022

Pitching Headway

Headway is a new initiative at The New York Times dedicated to exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. That can mean a lot of things, of course; we started the project by asking what on earth progress means. But the easiest way to think about it is shifting the lens from describing a problem to exploring how people are trying to address it. We’re asking what is possible, and not just what is wrong.

We are looking for three types of stories:

Cover stories. These are the big, magazine-style stories that can anchor a project on a broad theme. The first Headway story of this type is Michael Kimmelman’s story on East River Park and building infrastructure for climate resiliency. We want ambitious stories with compelling characters, tension, a narrative arc, and bigger ideas. 

Other examples of the kind of piece we are looking for include this story about how Costa Rica built one of the world’s best healthcare systems; this profile of an innovative mapmaker trying to get the Catholic Church to manage its lands for climate change; this examination of a movement to encourage taking down freeways instead of expanding them; and this effort to reduce inequality in college education. 

These stories can be profiles, process stories, backward-looking narratives and run in the 4,000-7,000-word range.

Editor's Pick

Visual and interactive stories. We welcome ideas for stories that can best be told visually or experientially through photography, video, data, graphics, illustration or other visual approaches. Planet Money’s t-shirt project is an inspiration, as is this playable overview of how segregation embeds itself.

 We appreciate visual stories that can cut complex challenges down to scale, such as this look at air pollution in Delhi, or stories that illuminate how an issue is progressing over time, such as this revisitation of a racist attack. The Times publishes a wide range of styles of visual journalism; if you have an innovative idea, let us hear it. 

Also, if you have an idea for an ambitious project that's squarely within our lens but would require more resources to execute, we're all ears.
Supporting pieces. These are smaller pieces (500-1500 words) that hit on a particular theme we are addressing, but in a more particular or formatted way. The prototype for these are pieces like this and this that ran under the rubric “Hindsight.” However, the form will vary. Some current “themes” that we are looking for smaller ideas around include:

  • Waste and circularity: We have a story in the works about efforts to make builders and manufacturers accountable for the full life cycle of their materials. We’re interested in pitches about notable shifts from wasteful or disposable practices.
  • Alleviating poverty: Now that an explosion of guaranteed basic income pilots have begun to unfold around the country, we’re taking stock of what’s coalescing from these experiments. We’re on the hunt for stories about communities taking notable approaches to filling basic human needs.
  • Past, present, and future of plastics: We’re looking for stories that help us see beyond our current era of plastic waste, whether reintroducing us to sustainable practices from before plastics were ubiquitous, or taking us into present-day cultural shifts in how plastics are used and disposed of.

What we want to see in a pitch:

We tend to get a certain type of pitch, a story about one novel project in a particular place. There are so many excellent-seeming, small programs in the world. These pitches generally don’t work for us.

We are more interested in pitches when the program is important enough to change conventional thinking, has good evidence of success and provides a lens through which we can tell a bigger story about larger ideas. These stories should have a larger meaning. We will be using only one or two such stories a month, so each story must carry weight, even if it is short.

Another type of pitch that could work for us is a positive deviant: data shows that a certain place is doing better against a certain problem than others with comparable resources.

For example:  

 NO: a program in a small city helps people coming out of prison to stay out.  

 YES: a program in a small city is successful and innovative enough that it is being copied across the country. It has really changed the field’s understanding of what makes someone avoid crime. By looking at what makes it successful, we can understand something new about criminality.

YES: an entire city’s recidivism rates are substantially better than those in comparable cities. The reason is citywide adoption of a successful, innovative program. What the city did is being copied across the country. It has changed the field’s understanding of what makes someone avoid crime. By looking at what makes it successful, we can understand something new about criminality. 

We’d want writers to consider these things while pitching: How do we know this project is “working” and what does “working” mean? Is there evidence to draw on? Does the project relate in a broader way to other programs or larger ideas? Is there enough history to enhance our understanding?

Future Themes To Think About: We are interested in exploring stories in these areas.

Revisitations / Hindsight 2.0: We are looking for reporters who want to revisit stories they previously reported about individuals or organizations striving to make major change.
Mapping informality: Some projections indicate that as much as a third of the world’s population will be living in informal settlements within the next couple decades. (One dimension of this is encampments, slums, favelas and other improvised structures, but another dimension is expansive real estate development by and for the wealthy without government oversight.)
Mobility and Migration: How people get around, within and among cities, and within and between countries, becomes increasingly important as the world grows increasingly urbanized and threatened by climate change.

How to pitch for New York Times' Headway :

Please send a pitch of three-to-six paragraphs, along with links to previous work, by February 24. (We can respond to pitches on a rolling basis after that, but we decide much of our slate of assignments in periodic pitch reviews.) 

For written stories, send to Vera Titunik, deputy editor, vera.titunik@nytimes.com. We pay at rates ranging from $1 to $2 per word depending on the reporting and writing effort involved in the story.

For visual stories, send to Jason Chiu, visual editor, jason.chiu@nytimes.com.



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Pawners Paper: Submit To New York Times' Headway 2022
Submit To New York Times' Headway 2022
Headway is a new initiative at The New York Times dedicated to exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress.
Pawners Paper
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