Freelance Remuda: 4 Tips for Reusing Sources

By Abigail Boatwright

Last week we released an episode about pitching story ideas. It really reminded me about the importance of keeping content unique to each magazine I write for. But as we know, the horse world is small. There are a limited number of experts in some disciplines and fields, and when you're working in one region--it can be an even smaller pool of source possibilities. So how can you reuse sources--and when should you steer clear? I've got a couple of thoughts:

Choose different story categories. If you've got a great all-around trainer that helped you on a training piece for one magazine, I think it's completely fair game to pitch a grooming story in another magazine with the same source. You might even think about pitching that grooming story to the same magazine as the training piece. Some magazine editors don't mind using a source more than once in a shorter timespan. Others really want their sources diverse. 

Aim for a non-competing publication. Health stories fit a variety of publications. If you've got an expert veterinarian on say, hoof diseases, keep that guy in your pocket. He might come in handy for a story in a different magazine. If one is a hunter-jumper publication and another is strictly barrel racing, you're probably not going to have a problem. Just make sure you don't pitch the same angle--keep it unique, and tailored to the publication's audience.

Check out the source's publicity. I get a sinking feeling when I sit down with my source for our interview and they say "So funny you're asking me this, I've been interviewed on this topic three times this month!" No no no....Not what you want to hear! It's a really good idea to check with the source about other interviews or recent stories in which they may have been featured. You might want to change your angle or even select a new source, if the other article is too similar or in a magazine too closely related. I've been asked to choose a different source after I pitched an idea because that source was recently published a lot in a competing publication. So if you notice your guy is getting a lot of press, you might rethink pitching a story with him at the moment.

Let some time lapse. If you let a year or two go by, some sources might be usable again for you, especially if it's a different category of topic. I've used some sources three or four times, and it makes things easier sometimes because you have built rapport with them. So don't burn those bridges - you never know when you might need to work with a source again.

Abigail Boatwright