Mill pitching guide: What we want to publish and how to get in touch

Plus our hunt for great writing

The Mill is looking to commission stories from talented writers and reporters in Greater Manchester and across the North. We are on the hunt for great writers who want to contribute stories regularly, whether that’s every few weeks or every few months.

Scouting for good writing

Like any news organisation we are interested in great news scoops, so please do bring us those. We have broken several big stories - like our scoop about a major data breach at GMP - and want to break lots more. If you have ideas for these kinds of stories, definitely get in touch.

But unlike many local newspapers these days, we also really care about good writing. Every week we try to publish pieces that are beautifully crafted and that really speak to readers through the power of their prose. That might mean capturing the dialogue between two 17-year-old girls you interview, articulating the strange paranoia of a community, or synthesising the history of a place via the experience of one person. These features can be 700 words or thousands of words long.

We are particularly keen to hear from writers who have developed this knack for writing, whether they have done so as a staff writer for The Guardian or on their personal blog. We’re effectively on a full-time hunt for people who can combine great journalism with clear, interesting, gripping writing, and will be very interested in speaking to you about freelancing and even full-time work if you have this skillset.

If you’re not in Greater Manchester but you want to do this kind of journalism outside of London, still please get in touch, whether you have been in journalism for 30 years or 30 days. And if you are pitching a feature idea, make sure you send links to a few examples of your writing so we can see how you would deliver the piece.

Here’s a brief guide to what we are looking for and how to pitch to us. In addition to reading this, please make sure you have read a wide variety of stories on our site before getting in touch - that’s always the best way to ensure a pitch makes sense.

What makes a good Mill story

The Mill aims to offer readers in Greater Manchester high quality reporting on a wide range of topics (see below for more details on topics). We think a lot of journalism is too focused on meaningless scoops, press releases, controversial quotes and story angles that will do well online but don’t really help readers to understand what is going on.

Mill stories are supposed to help readers understand their world better, which means doing good old-fashioned journalism by speaking to people and doing proper research and then explaining the context of what you are reporting. How has this policy you are writing about changed? What is driving the uptick in the type of crime you are covering? Gathering really high-quality evidence - from academic papers or by speaking to university researchers or authors of well-researched books about the topic - is important for this.

We also want really interesting human stories at the heart of a lot of our journalism. A lot of stories these days - particularly quick-hit journalism online - lack human depth. Stories are most interesting when they have people at the centre of them. That doesn’t mean you can’t zoom out and explain the trend behind the story or the forces shaping this trend in society - you should. But it means putting people and their experiences at the heart of what we write.

Go and speak to someone, and really show the reader how they have experienced whatever you are writing about. And if you meet someone who has an interesting story - someone who worked on a dangerous nuclear project in Bury, or someone who makes £100,000 a year as an influencer, or someone who just moved out of the council house their family lived in for 50 years after the death of their partner - think about whether it could be a Mill interview.

Topics we are interested in

We’re open to any topic, as long as it has a strong link to Greater Manchester, and will be interesting and informative to our audience. Our readers are doctors, teachers, lawyers, carers, site managers, publishers, counsellors, university professors and entrepreneurs in Manchester and its surrounding area. They care about culture, crime, history, housing, politics, business, education, the environment, health, inequality and all the things you might read about in The Times or The Guardian or The Economist.

We want surprising pitches about things you don’t tend to read about in local or regional media - stories that you could imagine being published in a national newspaper or a global magazine.

We probably aren’t looking for:

  • Stories that feel familiar because they have been covered lots of times before. We will cover these stories but only if the angle is fresh and the information is new.

  • Stories that feel like puff pieces for a company or a project. Anything that is based on a press release is a no.

  • Pitches that just say “Here’s an interesting issue - I’ll speak to a few experts about it”. We never want these general pitches - we need a specific angle, a new development or an amazing human story that readers won’t forget reading.

Formats and fees

A lot of our stories will be news features ranging from 700 words to 1200 words, but that’s a very rough range. News features are supposed to be both well reported and well written, and our readers really appreciate good writing - well-observed moments and nice turns of phrase.

We will also sometimes publish straight news stories - new figures we’ve obtained via FOI, or a story like this one we broke about a new police investigation into grooming in Rochdale.

Our rates are fairly modest at this stage in our young life. We will agree a fee with you when we commission a story, but so far £150 is the average fee we have paid, with lots of variation depending on what the piece involves. As our subscriber base grows we will build up our war chest for investigative work that costs more.

Mill stories so far

  • A news feature about the little-known life of James Watkins, a fugitive slave who came to Bolton and Manchester in the 1850s, based on a book he wrote and interviewing an expert on slave narratives.

  • A feature about the death of Tony Wilson, based on interviews with his daughter and two of his best friends.

  • A long-read about a South Manchester neighbourhood called Burnage Garden Village, and the strange dynamics of close-knit communities.

  • A data story about testing rates in Greater Manchester and whether they have led us to overestimate the severity of our Covid outbreak, based on new figures.

  • A straight news story about arrests in Rochdale as part of a new grooming investigation - an exclusive which was followed up by the BBC, ITV and several newspapers.

  • A feature about how Manchester flats are sold in Hong Kong, reported by two freelance contributors - one in Hong Kong and one here

How to pitch

Please email your ideas to joshi@manchestermill.co.uk, and please include:

  • a few links to stories or blogs showing how you write.

  • what the idea is and how you would do it.

  • why it’s interesting to readers now.

Don’t feel the need to write a long email - a good pitch can be five or six sentences. And apologies in advance if you don’t hear back for a few days.


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