The Pigeon's Official Contributor Guidelines

Our mandate is to make journalism training more accessible for young people across Canada. Whether you've gone to journalism school, are still a student, or are just finding your love for writing now, we want to help you. Our process mirrors that of established media companies in Canada, and we take a very thorough approach to ensure you learn what editors expect from contributing writers. If you would like to contribute a feature piece or personal essay to The Pigeon, please adhere to the following guidelines for pitches and submissions.

Before you pitch

The Pigeon is devoted to sharing feature articles and personal essays that tell unique stories from across Canada. We want to hear from underrepresented, inexperienced, and overenthusiastic young journalists. 

Note: At this time, The Pigeon is operating on a minimal budget as we establish ourselves. As of Oct. 1, 2020, contributors can expect to receive a small remuneration for their work. We are actively working to raise funds to increase contributor payment. 

What is The Pigeon looking for?

The Pigeon exclusively publishes feature articles about topics taking place in Canada. A feature article focuses on one topic, person, or issue. Ranging from 1500-2500 words on average, features are meant to explain newsworthy topics through the perspective of individual stories or opinions. Less formal than a news article, a feature may occasionally include the author’s personal experiences. 

While The Pigeon‘s focus is on features, our editorial team is also open to pitches for personal essays.

The Pigeon will not accept pitches for other types of articles, like news stories, profiles, listicles, or media reviews. The Pigeon also does not accept story pitches that directly involve ongoing criminal matters or legal cases, unless discussed with an editor beforehand. 

To understand the kind of articles we’re is looking for, read our website regularly to get a sense of our tone and style. Make sure we haven’t already published an article similar to your pitch.

Pitching The Pigeon

The Pigeon’s editorial team accepts feature pitches on an ongoing basis. All pitches should be sent to pitches@the-pigeon.ca, with the subject line “Pitch—[Potential Headline].” In under 300 words, provide a brief description of the story and who you plan to interview, as well as a proposed word count.

Please note in your pitch email what level of experience you have with long-form writing, so our editorial team can walk you through the editing process accordingly. If you haven’t worked with us before, we also encourage you to provide one or two examples of your work.

The Pigeon does not accept completed article drafts.

Once you have sent in a pitch, you should expect to receive a response within 5-7 business days. If your pitch is not accepted, an editor will either explain their reasoning or give you a chance to resubmit your idea after some editing.

If your pitch is accepted, an editor will introduce themselves and work with you to flesh out your idea, confirm sources, and finalize any details before agreeing on a deadline for draft submission. 

If 5-7 business days have passed and you have not received a response from The Pigeon’s editorial team, kindly send us a follow-up email with your original pitch pasted in the body of a new email.

If you would like to pitch a personal essay, email pitches@the-pigeon.ca and follow the same pitching guidelines as above, summarizing your personal story or experience.

Before you write

Writing for The Pigeon

While writing a feature draft for The Pigeon, please refer to our Official Style Guide and familiarize yourself with our specific preferences for articles, specifically grammar, punctuation, and content. Adhering to these guidelines will ensure you submit a polished first draft to our editorial team. An editor will send you a PDF copy of our style guide if your pitch is accepted.

Reach out to your sources, interview them, and create a draft article of roughly 1500-2500 words. This draft should include a proposed headline, the body of the article, and a brief author bio. For more information on the contents of a feature, refer to published articles on The Pigeon website. Your editor can also answer any questions you have about how to write a polished article.  

Once your draft is submitted, you and your editor will work together to polish your piece. This may take multiple rounds of edits before you are both satisfied with the final product. Your article will then enter internal rounds of editing for style and grammar before being scheduled for publication.

The process of editing a long-form article is more involved than the process for shorter pieces. While our editorial team will work with you to preserve your voice, we may ask that you change the structure, tone, or style of your piece to match our standards. This is normal for most publications.

The Pigeon’s Official Style Guide

While our editors keep an eye out for grammatical and stylistic errors in each article, it’s important to have a sense of a publication’s specific style before submitting a draft to them. This shows the editors that you’re detail-oriented and take the time to read our guidelines.

Our Style Guide also contains our journalistic practices for speaking with sources belonging to equity-seeking groups, and addressing topics important to equity. We expect each of our contributors to have a strong grasp on these guidelines.

Our major style elements:

  • Use the Oxford comma.
  • The Pigeon uses a somewhat casual style—contractions should be used.
  • Use per cent instead of %
  • If something has an acronym, the first mention should be spelt out completely, followed by the acronym in brackets.
  • A quotation should typically start a new paragraph, and the word “said” should only come after the first sentence. We also cite sources as “X said,” not “said X.”

Click here to read our official style guide.

Interviewing your sources for The Pigeon

In order to write a feature article, unless it is a personal essay, you will need to interview a variety of sources about your topic. From individuals to experts, a good feature will include a minimum of 2-3 sources, with quotations to provide evidence and opinions.

While each source is different, email is generally the best way to get in touch with people you want to interview. Introduce yourself, The Pigeon, and your story. Explain why you’d like to talk to a source, and ask for their availability. If they reply, you can schedule a time to talk.

If you are unfamiliar with or unsure of the interview process for a features article, don’t hesitate to ask your editor for help. In addition, The Pigeon has the following requirements for conducting interviews for our site:

  • Prioritize finding sources with direct experience in the topic you are writing about. For example, if you are researching the gender wage gap, you should interview women who have personally experienced wage discrimination.
  • When reaching out to potential sources, try to touch base over email to maintain professionalism. Social media DM’s should include a request for email to keep all of your interview discussions in one place.
  • Interviews should be conducted in person, over the phone, or over a video-conferencing application. Written statements should only be accepted if absolutely necessary, and with permission from an editor.
  • At the beginning of an interview, officially disclose to your source that you are interviewing them for The Pigeon and recording your conversation in order to accurately quote it.
    • It is also important to mention that their comments are on the record—your source should not say anything they do not want published in an article. Ask if they have any questions about this before proceeding.
    • These steps are important to ensure the source knows the meaning of an interview, and will not feel uncomfortable or confused later on.
  • Feature interviews are somewhat different from news interviews because they feel more conversational. While you should go into every interview with a list of prepared questions, don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or let your source go off on tangents. Making your source comfortable and having a more conversational interview can often lead to meaningful connections and statements. You never know when a source will bring up something you hadn’t thought of before.
  • Confirm your source’s preferred name and pronouns at the beginning or end of an interview. Have them spell out their name to you, and repeat it back to them. Even if their full name is on social media or in their email, it is important to double check this.

Researching your feature for The Pigeon

Every feature will require some investigation, not just through interviews, but through good old-fashioned research. Make sure that you pay attention to where you’re getting information from, and that any sources you cite are reputable. 

While your work will be fact-checked by your editor, citing your sources can still be an awkward process. You can either include your source in the body of your article, or hyperlink it. Follow these guidelines for citing formal sources:

  • You may either directly mention a formal or academic source in the body of an article, or use a hyperlink.
  • For example, if you are quoting a statistic about wage disparities in Canada, you may say:
  • In this case, “according to Statcan” may be linked, too, but you’ve given the source in the quote. It is therefore up to you whether to link directly to the Statcan site, but we encourage it.
  • This is useful for quoting from an academic study, another news article, or government website. You should only omit a hyperlink if the source you cite is recognizable and easily searched.

When citing information collected from informal sources, refer to the following guidelines:

  • If you’re choosing to support your argument with less intense statistics—say, something you found on Twitter, or that was reported by another news source—a hyperlink is still preferred, but your evidence should always be backed up with more formal citations. 
  • Informal sources should be used only to emphasize empirical evidence, not replace it.
  • If you’ve observed the information yourself (e.g. you went to a hockey game and you know that they won 3-2) it doesn’t need to be referenced. 
  • For Twitter and other social media posts, you should ask the original poster for consent. 
    • This doesn’t apply to news articles, since they’ve already been published. 

When citing information collected in an interview, refer to the following guidelines:

  • If someone mentions a statistic, or describes an incident or chain of events in an interview, you can paraphrase what they say, absorbing it into the story. 
    • You don’t need to say, “This happened in this order, according to an interview with _____.” Use your discretion to decide what can be paraphrased and what can be quoted.
  • You should never paraphrase a source’s emotions or controversial statements—this brings the truth of a statement into question. Quote sources directly in these cases.
    • E.g. You can’t tell us that John Doe was happy, but you can quote him saying that he feels happy. 
  • Bear in mind that any facts, timelines, or chains of events being told to you by a source may be impacted by the source’s own bias, and should be verified.
    • E.g. If the source says they attended the climate march in Montreal on September 27th, Google the march to confirm it took place on said date.

If you have any questions about The Pigeon’s editorial process for contributors, don't hesitate to email us at editors@the-pigeon.ca.