High Country News is an award-winning, nonprofit news magazine that covers the American West. We publish 22 print issues a year, maintain a website with daily stories and are always looking for strong new voices. This page describes our guidelines for submissions, both written and photographic.
High Country News will consider pitches for well-researched stories on any natural resource or environmental topic, as long as it concerns the American West as a region. We define resources to include people, politics, culture and aesthetic values, not just coal, oil and timber. Keep in mind that we have a million-square-mile region to cover in a small news space, which means we want local stories with regional significance, told in ways that go beyond what newspapers or blogs report.
We are a magazine whose stories include incisive reporting, strong storytelling and intellectual honesty. Critical, deep dives into subjects as diverse as our region are imperative. We encourage Native American, Hispanic, and other minority journalists to send us queries. If you are not familiar with High Country News, please endeavor to become so before pitching.
We divide submissions into front-of-book stories (500 to 1,600 words) and features (2,400 words and up). We pay on publication, between $0.50 and $1.50 per word, depending on the writer’s experience and our experience with the writer. Kill fee is 25 percent. Pitches should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and must include “Story Query” in the subject line to avoid the trash folder. No phone calls, please.
We will consider, but rarely accept, pre-written stories. Nor do we accept pitches from public relations professionals or other vested parties. We do journalism here, not advocacy.
Please keep pitches under 500 words. Tell us, in an engaging and jargon-free style, what the story is, why it matters and why High Country News is the only place for it. Include clips to previously published work. If you have not heard from us after two weeks, please write a polite follow-up. Pitch stories that have a long shelf life. Our lead-time can be up to six months for front-of-book stories and a year for features. Features pitches should come from writers with chops. If we haven’t worked with you before, consider a front-of-book piece before pitching a feature.
Front-of-book stories cover a diverse array of topics in quick hits. These are dispatches, profiles or analyses. Surprise us—and our well-versed readers. Find an insight into the West and its resources. Describe a person in a place solving a problem. Explain a new policy. Point out a hypocrisy. Identify a trend. Explore a conflict over values. Tell us how something works. We’re looking for hard-nosed reporting and deliberate writing. You may also have an idea for a photo essay or infographic, or a pure Q&A. We’d welcome those, too.
Other departments include reviews of books—about the West or by Western authors—and essays that inform our understanding of the region. Request book review guidelines from Senior Editor Jodi Peterson: email@example.com. Pitch a 700- to 900-word, back-page essay to Contributing Editor Michelle Nijhuis: firstname.lastname@example.org. Payment varies.
You might also have an opinion, in which case you can submit an idea to Writers on the Range, our syndicated column. To prevent heartache—yours and ours—please read what we’ve already written for any given subject. We are looking for taut and pithy opinion pieces about issues that affect Westerners. Write to editor Betsy Marston: email@example.com. Put “WOTR” in the subject line. No attachments.
You may also pitch online-only stories for the website. These stories should be newsier and self-contained, in 700 words or less, written on a fast turnaround. Pitch Online Editor Tay Wiles: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re always looking for great photographers who work in the West and are interested in the issues we cover. We accept pitches for photo stories that show surprising aspects of the West or offer intimate looks at communities or people doing something unique. We rarely use photo stories featuring only landscape images, and we rarely use standalone images (except for funny ones, for Heard around the West). Rather, we reach out to photographers for stories we already have in motion, either for stock or assignment.
If you have a photo story or essay you’d like to pitch, or if you want to introduce us to your work, please send a link or a selection of images for review to email@example.com. We need quality, high-resolution images saved as JPEG files, at 300 dpi or higher at about 10 inches on the long side. For larger files, send electronic transfer (such as Dropbox). Please send only electronic images.
All submissions should include the name of the photographer as it is to appear in the credit line and a description of the place or name of the subject for the caption. We also need your name, address and phone number for payment purposes and for our files.
Prices for individual photographs range from $35 to $100, depending on quality, published size and location within the magazine. We pay more for cover images. Photo stories for the magazine (also published online) pay $300 for one page, $500 for a spread. Web-only images are $50 for singles; up to $400 for a web gallery (which includes use of one image for print, to promote the piece). HCN pays for work upon publication.
High Country News’ purchase includes the right to publish the photograph/art in our print magazine and digital efforts, including social media outreach, to archive it on our website, and to authorize reprinting for classrooms or publication in small nonprofit newsletters. Other commercial uses of the work will be negotiated with the photographer/artist.
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