With my background in social work, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I really admire publications and editors who strive to cover human rights, social justice and environmental issues. Michelle Pini is the executive editor of Independent Australia (IA), an online publication that champions investigative journalism and promotes a diversity of voices. On a personal level, Michelle is generous, funny and open, and professionally she is an incisive, supportive and meticulous editor. I love that IA mentors new writers, so let’s meet Michelle.
From marketing manager to executive editor – meet Michelle Pini
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your career so far?
I worked in marketing management within the wine industry.
It was a fun and lucrative career but I longed to be a journalist and pursue my love of writing and story-telling.
I decided to take a leap and do a masters in communication, which I completed four years ago.
This led to an internship and then to a position (originally) as a sub-editor with Independent Australia.
I am now executive editor and I love every minute of it.
Can you tell me a little bit about Independent Australia and what makes it so special?
I think what I love most about IA is that it gives voice to people’s stories, highlights injustices and raises awareness for significant issues, which are often otherwise unheard.
We are fiercely independent and often publish stories that the mainstream media miss, or perhaps avoid, and we have broken several stories of injustice or corruption at a high level, which the wider media took many more months to recognise.
It really feels as though we are making a small difference each day and I am very proud of that.
Independent Australia is privately owned and run – can you tell me a little bit about the subscription model and the readership?
We believe in the importance of independent, free media and freely available information.
With the exception of our editorials – which are generally only available in full to our subscribers – all our articles may be read without charge on our website.
Funding from our readers, however, helps keep us viable and editorially independent.
Subscriptions range from $5 to $20 per month and subscribers receive other benefits, such as a weekly newsletter and exclusive merchandise. We are also fortunate that many IA supporters make donations to our site.
In addition, Independent Australia is monetised through Google AdSense, in which payment is received according to the number of unique page views.
Our readership varies between 180,000 and 350,000 per month and is growing steadily, which is exciting!
What kinds of stories are featured on Independent Australia?
Our focus is on politics, the environment, human rights and issues of national identity with a strong Australian bias, but we also feature articles of international significance.
IA is also committed to investigative journalism — some exclusives include exposés on the James Ashby-Peter Slipper story and the Barnaby Joyce affair, among others.
Do you have a favourite story that you’ve edited so far?
I have many favourites, but one of the first that comes to mind is this piece about water use and corporate interests in the Pilliga, titled, ‘How Barnaby Joyce contaminates my drinking water’.
I love its meticulous attention to detail and the clear and concise way in which it joins the dots on an important issue with far reaching ramifications.
Are you looking for freelance writers to contribute to Independent Australia?
We are always looking for quality writers with important stories or informed viewpoints, well told.
We have a small stable of paid, regular columnists. Outside this, our contributors are paid according to the number of unique views their stories achieve, as determined by Google Analytics and outlined in our contributor guidelines.
As we focus on current affairs, we do not have an editorial calendar.
[Related content: Interested in writing about social issues? Here are some great publications to pitch]
In your experience, what makes an irresistible pitch? What if writers don’t have much (or any) experience — are you still open to them writing for you?
We are absolutely open to receiving submissions from writers with all levels of experience.
The Pilliga piece I mentioned was not written by a journalist. Each submission is considered on its merit and in relation to the mix of stories already scheduled at any given time.
My advice is, do your homework — check to see what type of stories we publish and get a feel for our website. For example, there is little point in sending us a restaurant review.
Most importantly, it is essential that all stories published on IA are thoroughly researched and can be backed up with credible sources.
An irresistible pitch would, of course, be well written and researched, and comply with our guidelines, as well offering a unique angle on a current and important topic.
[Related content: A detailed resource where I share 10 successful pitches that got commissioned]
Lots of editors I write for in the digital space are very conscious of their data analytics – does this kind of information influence what you commission and what you are looking for in pitches?
We are conscious of our data, of course, as we have to maintain and grow our readership to remain a viable concern.
However, we are not driven by this.
We aim to offer a wide mix of articles with an informative and current perspective, and continue to keep IA progressive, well-rounded and enjoyable to read.
Is there anything that is an absolute no-no when it comes to what freelance writers should never do when pitching to you or writing for you?
We are scrupulous with fact checking, which is a time-consuming exercise, so we appreciate writers who do their research properly.
The three main areas to watch are unattributed use of others’ work, incorrect claims and dubious sources.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Do your homework on the publication to which you are pitching. Knowing a little about a publication’s audience and editorial stance can save a lot of time.
Know your topic — the better informed you are, regardless of the type of articles you write, the more likely it is that your stories will be interesting.
An active social media profile will help with the visibility of your articles as well as with developing your own loyal readership.
And if you would like to be an editor, try an internship with a publication that interests you and see where it leads — it worked for me!
How can people get in touch with you Michelle?
Submit articles to email@example.com
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Follow me on twitter @vmp9.
Do you read Independent Australia or similar publications? What do you think about writing for publications with smaller budgets that offer benefits (e.g. mentoring) other than just financial?