Amazing I know... but I actually have a journalism diploma!
Decades back when I went to what was then the London College of Print I was told you pitch ideas to editors one at a time.
Your story is considered exclusive. If they turn it down, you move on to the next one. That way you never get the serious embarrassment of the same story running in competing publications.
That's nice in theory, but these days I just feel it won't work. There's a bunch of things that have made it unfeasible.
PRs muddy the water
PRs don't really abide by this rule. Occasionally they might do, but often the idea gets mailed to the whole world in a press release. If I see a great idea these days in the middle of a release (and it's often in the middle) I treat it with caution. Chances are the editor I might be pitching to will have seen the same release. I'll look bad as I'm just recycling other peoples' ideas. As far as a PR is concerned they just want coverage - it's not of much real interest to them who writes it. There's a degree of preference regarding which publication, but even that isn't particularly strong.
Editors are useless at replying
I know editors get hundreds of pitches a week (maybe even a day). It must be difficult to manage.
But there was one travel editor at a national newspaper who had it utterly sorted. If I emailed her on the right day at the right time, she'd reply within 20 minutes. It was often a 'no'. But fair enough at least I could move on.
Guess what? I always sent her my ideas first.
Why can't others do this? I've had one editor respond three weeks after I've sent a pitch email and say they want the story. By then I'd pitched it elsewhere. Another editor was showing interest. What do I do at that point?
Usually though I just hear nothing. How hard is it to reply? Maybe I'm going to sound a little arrogant here. But there should be some kind of pecking order. OK, you simply can't reply to the masses of pitches from complete newbies. But the hacks who have been writing this stuff for decades who you know can write great copy and take great pics? (Of course there might be a pecking order and I am so far down it I don't get replies whilst others do?)
Do you hassle editors?
Most editors prefer not to be hassled on the phone. I have the direct lines of quite a number but I don't as a rule call them. Chances are they will be head down in something and I'll be interrupting. My hunch is they will probably just say 'no thanks' if pushed too hard like this.
So I send a really short follow up email a week after the first one. I also time my emails carefully and only send on appropriate days (no, I'm not revealing my strategy.) They're really carefully written. I've spent years writing emails for clients. I like to think I know how to do this.
Right now I have the editor of one publication interested in a story. I've just discovered that the PR agency in the meantime have met with a competing publication and also sold in the same idea. The other publication is really keen too.