October 14, 2010

‘Ask Amy’ Author Offers Media Advice

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Amy Dickinson, journalist and author of the nationally syndicated advice column “Ask Amy,” visited campus on Thursday, giving members of the Cornell community the opportunity to ask for advice about how to pitch stories to editors in the media.

“As a journalist, I’ve been on the other side of pitches quite a bit, and there’s a way to do it,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson told attendees about her own pitches, including her pitch for the story she said was a turning point in her career — a 1996 article about Courtney Love carrying a teddy bear across the country, stuffed with the ashes of her husband Kurt Cobain. Aimed to have the ashes prepared for Buddhist burial, Love’s trek included a stop in Ithaca.

Dickinson said she heard the story from a friend, and after tracing to primary sources and six months of research, pitched her story to Rolling Stone magazine. However, the publication was not interested.

A pitch to Esquire, however, was successful — a result of a more creative pitch, Dickinson said.

After telling Esquire editors about the story, the magazine asked to see more in writing. She sent a drawing of a map of the United States, with dotted lines showing the routes that Love took around the country.

Partly due to this successful pitch, Dickinson landed jobs at Time Magazine, National Public Radio and the Chicago Tribune, she said.

Thursday’s event was coordinated by communications@cornell, an informal organization composed of members working for the University’s communication department. Most of the event’s attendees were members of the group, according to Ann Morse, leader of the organization and the head of the media department at the School of Continuing Education.

Dickinson advised the communications workers to target their pitches to the right publications and make them professional, well thought-out and creative.

“There’s stuff in your department that doesn’t seem sexy to you, maybe, but there’s a publication or a website that, even if it’s not sexy, is interesting or important,” Dickinson said. “There’s so much research at Cornell that I think is fascinating.”

Original Author: Juan Forrer