#MediaMonday – Joni Sweet
Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Joni Sweet, a national freelance journalist published in National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Real Simple, SELF, Health, Healthline, Verywell, Thrillist, Where magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and Prevention, just to name a few. Her work primarily covers travel, health, and wellness.
So, Joni, time to share!
Tell us how you got your start? Tell us your story!
I’ve always loved to write. I was the kid in the back of the school bus writing stories in a marble notebook for fun, wishing my teachers assigned more book reports, and creating my own magazines in my bedroom. When it came time to apply for college, I knew I wanted to do something creative that had me writing every day, while not pigeonholing me into any one interest. I’ve always been curious about so many things! Journalism seemed like the perfect fit. I was accepted into journalism school at Ithaca College and the rest is history.
Tell us how you came to start working in the media scene?
My career launched at VegNews, a vegan magazine in California, right after college. But after my six-month contract as an editorial assistant came to an end, I struggled to find my footing in publishing. It was 2011, and jobs in the media industry after the Great Recession were tough to come by. I decided to look for work abroad, and later that year, I wound up working in Jakarta, Indonesia, as a newspaper editor. It was an amazing yearlong adventure, and it gave me my first taste of the excitement of freelancing, when I landed a story in The Christian Science Monitor about a deeply inspiring woman (read the story for more details!).
Eventually I made my way to the center of the media world—New York City—where I spent a few years as an editor at Where magazine, and some time as a content strategist at J.P. Morgan. But all the while I was working full-time jobs, I was freelancing on the side and dreaming of becoming self-employed. I finally took the plunge and became a full-time freelancer in early 2018 and I’ve been doing that ever since! It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Saugerties in Upstate New York—exactly 100 miles north of Manhattan.
Where do you live now?
I was one of those New Yorkers who left the city during the pandemic, and I now live in Beacon, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley. No regrets!
Favorite/least favorite food?
Fave food: Mac ’n’ cheese. But honestly, anything filled with carbs makes me happy.
Least fave: Meats and beets. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 14 years. And as for beets, no matter how many times I try them, they always make me gag.
Three things readers would be surprised to know about you?
-I’ve had close calls with aggressive monkeys three times in my life—twice in India, and once in Bali.
-I really enjoy playing video games. Lately I’ve been playing a couch co-op game called Overcooked, and I always love a round of Call of Duty.
-People who haven’t met me in person, but have seen my byline, usually think my name is pronounced like “Jonie.” But it’s actually pronounced “Johnny.” It’s sort of a feminized version of my dad’s name, Jon.
Do you take pitches? If so, any guidelines?
Yes! I get easily 75+ pitches in my inbox a day. I really don’t love pitches that have huge walls of text, many fonts, random highlighting, and other weird formatting—it’s hard on the eyes and makes me instantly inclined to turn away. I open every pitch I get, but given the volume, it’s impossible for me to respond to ideas I’m not able to cover. I truly appreciate publicists who don’t send more than one follow-up on a pitch.
Please, please, please no social media pitches. When I end up fielding pitches on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter DMs, it gets really overwhelming. Stick to email, and if I’m able to work with you, I will definitely respond!
Other than that, my only other guideline is no CBD pitches. I covered CBD quite a lot a few years ago, and the more research I did, the more I realized how little we actually know about the stuff. I’ve decided not to cover CBD until major conclusive research comes out, and so CBD pitches are not helpful at the moment.
What is the lead time you need for content or pitches?
It depends! A few weeks is helpful, as that gives me time to send a pitch to an editor and wait for a response. Sometimes a short lead story can work, if it’s particularly newsworthy and I think it can grab an editor’s attention right away.
What should (and shouldn’t) people be pitching to you?
Pitch me anything in the health, wellness, or travel space. Do not pitch me jewelry, perfume, stock market stuff, anything related to CBD, pet products, real estate, cocktail recipes, or makeup. Skincare is fair game, though!
What is the best way to reach you?