1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Stolen story idea -- what to do?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joegolf, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. Joegolf

    Joegolf New Member

    In the course of researching a book project, I realized an auto racing great I had made prelininary contact with had an anniversary of a top-shelf accomplishment coming up this year.
    Since I live within an hour's drive or so of this auto racing icon, I pitched an idea to a national magazine on either a Where Are They Now feature or a Lion in winter story, either on this ex-driver or on he and another, more-famous driver whom I'd also had preliminary contact with for the book.
    My idea was turned down by the magazine's auto racing editor because he said they concentrate on NASCAR instead of Indy cars and 95% of what they do is NASCAR.
    Lo and behold, in the current issue, there is a where are they now piece along the same lines I'd pitched, written by the very editor who'd rejected my idea.
    Clearly, my idea was taken by this guy, but what do I do about it? I saved my emails, so I can show I pitched it and it was rejected.
    But where does this fall?
  2. PeteyPirate

    PeteyPirate Guest

    Kind of a dick move, but you don't own story ideas.
  3. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Golf,

    It happens. It won't happen if you're pitching a story that you own, i.e. that you have special access, background, history and expertise with. I had this happen once, years and years back, not quite as you describe it. I sent a letter to a higher-up, got a meeting and a year later I was the contributing editor with the mag, most bylines in it across 12 months other than the monthly columnist (Mordecai Richler was the one, for the Canadians out there). If you have a grievance you might want to go upstairs. No guarantees but what can it hurt.

  4. if you an any evidence that he stole the idea (e-mails) contact his boss. It won't do you any good, but it might make you feel better.

    Sorry 'bout your luck.
  5. I agree, it's a dick move. Send copies of the e-mails to the editor's higher-ups. It won't make you feel a whole lot better, but at least the dick's bosses will know he's a thief, not an original thinker. And they might wonder what else he's stealing.
  6. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Always write the story first, then shop it around.
  7. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr X,

    No. I don't know a magazine editor that wants that.

  8. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    But then he ends up in the predicament he's in.
  9. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr X,

    No. That you've written the story wouldn't stop an editor without scruples from scalping your idea. So, no, don't write the story first. Have command of your material--let the editor know that you've made contacts, have background, done your homework and all the rest and that you're not just plucking a name out of the thin blue air. But the idea of writing 1,500, 2,000 or 3,000 words unsolicited is a quick trip to the scrap pile. An editor won't read it.

  10. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I'd read it. I'd tell the guy that his story would take a hearty trip through the editing process and don't be surprised to see the story surgically repaired.

    There are some editor-types who can appreciate that someone did the legwork, and reward those people.
  11. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr X,

    Like I say, I don't know a magazine editor that works that way. You can show that you've done the legwork in your pitch, you can prove your command and ownership of the story -- the idea that you can get it when someone else won't be able to.

    Yeah, you'll read it. Maybe you and the guy who stole the story that Mr Golf is asking about. Doesn't mean that the editor wouldn't have still ripped it off. Unsolicited stories-in-whole at magazines are like unsolicited ms at publishing houses: fast-tracked to slush piles.

  12. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I suppose. I guess what I'm saying is that I appreciate the go-getters. A guy calls me and says, "Hey, here's a great story idea ..." I'm the type who tells him to go do the story and submit it.

    I know it's rarely like that in the real world, but I'd give the guy pitching his idea a chance.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page