Interviews

Sinkhole: Storytelling Is at the Root of Making Change (2017.03.01)

Pacific Standard was founded nine years ago as Miller-McCune, a magazine that brought the best of the social and behavioral sciences to a general interest audience. In the years since, we've re-positioned—and renamed—the magazine to broaden its appeal. Today, we're essentially an ideas magazine with a few differentiating factors that set us apart from our peers like The Atlantic, Harper's, and The New Yorker.

The first is that we’re based on the West Coast, an underrepresented area when it comes to the national press. That doesn't make us a regional magazine—we don't use the West Coast as a source for all of our stories—but it does give us a different perspective, and it means that our source lists often differ pretty dramatically from those of others. The second is that the social and behavioral sciences remain a core part of our DNA. We take research very seriously, and we use it to inform our work and our conclusions, rather than relying solely on anecdote or opinion. Social and behavioral science—and studies more generally—have become a very popular resource for a number of publications in recent years, but, where others often rush through abstracts and press releases, we always read the research in full, place it in context, and speak to the academics. We put in a lot of work when it comes to presenting the findings of the academy because we see a value for our audience here, and because we believe in the power of facts and figures, especially in an era of significant concern over reliability.

The third differentiating factor between us and some of our peers is that we have core coverage areas that we've identified as being worth our undivided attention. Internally, we refer to these as the four pillars: We tell stories that matter about social justice, environmental justice, economic justice (often issues of inequality), and educational justice, which primarily means, for us, access to high-quality education for all.

I mentioned stories that matter and that is the overarching objective—that idea guides everything we do. Every day we aim to find the stories that can make a difference. Sometimes, on our best days, we’re successful at that, and, when we are, the results can be impressive.


KCBX: Central Coast Voices: Pacific Standard (2016.08.25)

Founded in 2008, Pacific Standard is a national non-profit media organization based in Santa Barbara and winner of the 2015 National Magazine Award for Public Interest. By combining research that matters with ambitious narrative and investigative reporting, Pacific Standard is for influential readers interested in working toward forward-looking changes to private behavior and public policy. The aim of the magazine is to promote knowledge that is instrumental for those creating a more fair and equitable society.

Join host Fred Munroe as he speaks with Pacific Standard magazine editors Nicholas Jackson, editor-in-chief, Jennifer Sahn, executive editor, and Ryan Jacobs, deputy editor, as they discuss how Pacific Standard tells stories about society's biggest problems, both established and emerging, and the people attempting to solve them.


Mr. Magazine: Pacific Standard Magazine – A Magazine Worth Printing With Stories That Matter (2016.07.25)

Today's Pacific Standard, with its compelling new redesign, has taken the maelstrom of hot topics that are splashed across today's mediums and featured them within the pages of the magazine to captivate readers with timely information in a new and deeper format that brings the art of long-form journalism back to the forefront.

Nick Jackson is editor in chief of Pacific Standard and has brought the brand into this redesign boldly and confidently, anxious to show readers the positive changes that have been made. Nick comes from a background that includes such giants in publishing as The Atlantic, Slate, and Outside magazines. He knows his stuff and is proud to be cultivating stories that inform and change people's lives.

I spoke with Nick recently and we talked about the magazine's new look and more poignant perspective. It was an interview that was filled with focus for the brand's future and excitement for its present, without discounting its esteemed past, recognizing the brilliance of Sara Miller McCune, founder of SAGE Publications, who launched the magazine.


C-SPAN: Washington Journal: Future of the Labor Economy (2015.12.02)

Nicholas Jackson talked about his cover story in Pacific Standard on the future of the labor economy.


The OPEN Notebook: How Much Time Should I Spend Preparing a Pitch? (2015.11.10)

A lot of people will tell you to stick to a three-paragraph pitch structure: introduce yourself and explain why you're the best person to tell this story, explain the story, and get out by convincing the assigning editor that this story is right for his or her publication. The first part is easy—I hope; the second two call for more work, and time. But this is silly. All publications are different; all editors are different; and, most importantly, all stories are different (or they should be).

There is no normal amount of time to spend on a feature-story pitch. Put as much time into it as it needs to get you the assignment; that's your ultimate goal here. I've accepted everything from pitches as short as a couple of sentences (these obviously work better if you already have a relationship with an editor) to pitches that run nearly as long as the pieces they'll eventually lead to (avoid this, most of the time). And that's just at Pacific Standard. At Outside, The Atlantic, and other outlets I've worked for, my process was slightly different. It's evolved over time.

The most important thing—I think—aside from having a compelling story that's worth telling, is that your pitch makes it clear why this piece is right for this magazine (that third paragraph, if you try to graft my advice to what you're hearing elsewhere). Getting that part right is where you'll spend the most time if you're not as familiar with the publication you're pitching as you could be. Or, getting that part right might take no time at all if you're attempting to place a story with a title that you're already a regular reader of.

All of that said, I would argue that it never hurts to do some of the legwork before you sit down to put together a pitch. Make some calls, find a character to build a narrative around, figure out who the important players are. It's only through the use of these practices that you'll know whether you even have a story.