Notes From a Hired Pen

Story Behind the Story: Miss America Can’t Save Atlantic City

This piece is an example of a pitch that had a hard time finding a home, but when it did, it worked out better than I could have expected.

The Story: “Miss America Can’t Save Atlantic City,” Philadelphia Magazine, September 13, 2013

The Pitch: I’ve been writing about Jersey Shore for more than a decade, and in that time, Atlantic City hit a peak in terms of new construction and gambling revenues, and then fell apart. I wanted to write about what was happening in 2013 (bankruptcy of a new casino/hotel, high unemployment and poverty levels, etc). I pitched that story to five different publications. I got two no’s (it’s not the right story for us, we’ve already covered Atlantic City), and then three no replies.

I put a lot of research into those pitches, so I kept trying to find a way to write the story. When the state of New Jersey gave the Miss America pageant $7.3 million to come back to Atlantic City, I knew I had my fresh angle.

The actual pitch was very short: “I have something half written about my fascination with a pageant I think is disingenuous…contestants posing in front of the AC airport today even though they were bussed in fits along.”

The reason for that is I already had a good relationship with the editor of the Philly Post, which is Philly Mag’s online news and commentary page.

The Process: After he responded, I sent him the top half of the piece, and he assigned it. It ran a week later. That piece won first place in Online Deadline Reporting in the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2013. Yes, I am proud of that.

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