Media interview with Joel Snape, features editor of Men’s Fitness

Today we talk ‘going the extra mile’ with Men’s Fitness features editor Joel Snape. He tells us what he’s looking for from freelancers looking to work with the magazine, as well as letting us in on the levels of fitness amongst the editorial team…

About the publication:

What subjects do you cover?
Fitness. Travel. Inspiration. Adventure. We’re a magazine for men looking to get the most out of life, whether that means getting stronger, looking better, competing harder or heading out on escapades they’ll remember forever.

About you and freelance journalists:

Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Yes, mainly for the features section – five to seven page pieces – and for Out There pieces, which are usually exciting tales of derring-do along the lines of boxing in Thailand, trekking to Everest base camp or cycling up the infamous Mont Ventoux. If you’re pitching the latter, you should have a very clear idea of how you’re going to fund the thing you’re proposing, or have already done it and be able to supply lots of impressive photos.

Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Absolutely, but not on the phone. I’d rather you emailed over a pitch with as much detail as you can be bothered to put together. As an absolute minimum, you should explain why the subject you’re proposing to cover is interesting, why it works for Men’s Fitness specifically, and the approach you’d take (first-person? 28 day investigation?) to covering it. Suggesting clever boxouts gets you bonus points. If you send over an email saying nothing but ‘have you thought about doing a feature about barefoot running?’ then don’t expect a reply. And don’t phone me; I can’t stress that enough.

Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
1. Handing things in on time.

2. Getting the tone right. This is surprisingly tricky in Men’s Fitness – we’re looking for a sort of explain-it-to-your-mates-in-the-pub conviviality that doesn’t descend to the sort of jokes you’d get on Top Gear. If you get it right first time, I will salute you and commission you frequently.

3. Going the extra mile. It’s easy to get a handful of rent-a-quote experts to say what you want, but it means you won’t work for us again – we want the leaders in their fields and people with interesting things to say. Recently, we’ve had one freelancer track down all seven of the men who’ve cycled around the world, and another spending a month monitoring every aspect of his life with blood glucose monitors and sleep headbands. That’s the sort of thing we like.

If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
I’ve had a few nice, clean pitches like the ones detailed above, but they’re massively outweighed by people pitching fitness ‘fads’ they’ve read about in The Guardian. The worst was probably a guy emailing me to suggest a story ‘about dating’, then emailing back a fortnight later to accuse me of stealing his idea.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
My actual job is putting together the features section, so my days are a blur of commissioning, subbing, writing, organising photoshoots and supervising long-term fitness ‘experiments’ for that. I also help out on other bits of the magazine as and when I can – especially if it means trying out interesting new training methods or hanging out with heroes of mine. And before anyone asks, yes, we all go to the gym regularly. We even have a special Protein Cupboard, though we’ve recently been forced to take the office pull-up bar down.

What interests you most about your job?
Talking to a huge range of inspirational men and women. I’ve chatted to Reinhold Messner (look him up), a dozen Olympic gold medallists, too many world champions to count, and a whole lot of people who manage to blend an incredibly active lifestyle with a full-time job and family. I invariably come away feeling quite lazy.

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