This week on the podcast we’re talking with Melinda Fakuade, the associate editor of culture and features at Vox. She has written for The Cut, The Outline, Rolling Stone, and MEL Magazine, among many other outlets.
During the episode, Melinda talks about how to effectively approach her with a story, her extremely high email open rate, her sincere interest in what she covers, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Thoughts on Pitches
[00:02:07] BB: Yeah. We're already having some good chats on this. I would love to actually go back to what we were just commenting on, which is just the level of being kind and smart and conversational, is how a pitch can stand out. So let's just start with that, and then we'll get into your inbox. If your conversational, how does that help you with your pitches?
[00:02:26] MF: When I get an email that is on the conversational side, and I can see this person's personality, and they don't feel like they're afraid of me or what they're saying, it makes me believe in them for the entire thing, instead of skimming it or trying to like figure. It’s a lot easier when you feel like you're reading an email from a human person and not a robot.
[00:02:47] BB: Okay. So you're talking like formal language, and it's like perfect five paragraphs or whatever be it. Describe how do you know it's like fearful?
“We don't come from a place of this article and this article is the definitive answer on a topic, but we want to help people understand why an issue or a topic might be becoming prominent or be a part of the way we live.”
[00:02:56] MF: I think this just kind of goes back to what a lot of people learned in J school, which is that it’s like, “Hello, Ms. Fakuade. Good day.” Just every time. Just say like, “Hi, Melinda. I want to [reach out] Vox for this story.” Tell me the pitch. We don't need a lot of lead up. We don't need a lot of formalities. Just tell me what –
[00:03:18] BB: Yeah. What is it? Yeah.
[00:03:20] MF: That we should be covering in at VOX. Yeah.
[00:03:25] BB: Okay. That's a good tip right off the bat. Okay. So for folks who do not know, perhaps, what would you say Vox entails, and what also does it not entail as a media outlet?
[00:03:36] MF: Well, I would say at Vox, we're really big on explainers. We're known for explaining the big issues in this –
[00:03:44] BB: The world.
[00:03:45] MF: Yeah, in our world that you might not have the answers to. We don't come from a place of this article and this article is the definitive answer on a topic, but we want to help people understand why an issue or a topic might be becoming prominent or be a part of the way we live. I’m the Associate Editor of Culture and Features, so I work with our culture team, where we cover entertainment, TV, books, movies, and things like that. I also work with our team at the goods, which is our consumerism article, and that's a lot about finance and the way we live. There's a lot of things that go on there, crypto.
[00:04:26] BB: It’s expansive.
[00:04:27] MF: Yeah, it's pretty expansive, which is why I like working in both sections.
Her Thoughts on Subject Lines
[00:07:37] What is then a subject line that stands out to you, Melinda, that will get you the open? Or are you a seriously open every single email type of person?
[00:08:01] MF: I try to open every single email.
“But a pitch from like a human person, someone who's trying to like a writer out there, I almost always open it.”
[00:08:04] BB: Wow. Okay. Wow. The extremes of this are getting good. Okay. Every single email. Okay.
[00:08:11] MF: But I would say I probably have a 85 to 90 percent open rate, I would think like. I try to open everything. Now, if it's like something that I instantly know isn't for us, let’s say it's a PR company pitching me about waffle fries at Chick-fil-A, I know we're not covering that. That I'm not opening. But a pitch from like a human person, someone who's trying to like a writer out there, I almost always open it. It might be hard to get back to everybody, but I try to open everything.
Her Thoughts on Embargoes
[00:13:13] BB: Yes, yes. I'm glad you know that, and I've discovered that you're sticking in like, “This is my area.” I wonder about that for some people where it's like, “God, do you –”? Well, I will share this too. For me, when I was doing like local news stuff, I was like, “Oh, my. I do not give a crap that at 4:00 AM on 59th Street and Palm, there was a kitchen fire.” It just did not appeal to me, so totally get that. Go with what works, basically, in your journalism desires. Yeah, that's good. Do you ever then – Melinda, I like to always ask us just for people because this is a big hang up point, and people like to discuss it. But do you all ever get exclusives or embargoes?
“Embargoes are things that I typically don't even care about…”
[00:13:57] MF: We do. Actually, I have an embargo in my inbox right now. I have to say I have not gotten an embargoed story yet that was like super spicy. Embargoes are things that I typically don't even care about like this celebrity is working with Apple on this new like – I don't know. Something that’s like even lower stakes than a new TV show or something. It will be like, “This celebrity is teaming up with Pepsi in an Apple-sponsored commercial for like a brand new pair of shoes.” I’m like, “Well, thanks for letting me know.”
Learn more about previous guests on Coffee with a Journalist, their pitching preferences, relationship building tips, and more in our journalist spotlight videos available for free on YouTube.
Want more tips from journalists?
Click below to subscribe to Coffee with a Journalist and receive emails highlighting reporters, journalists, and editors and their individual pitching preferences.