Archive for July 30th, 2009

Writing for Radio: Three Ways to Freelance for Radio

Laura Bridgwater

By Laura Bridgwater

Freelancing for radio means writing commentary, creating scripts, and reporting the news. As a writer, you will benefit from freelancing for radio by adding audio clips to your clip file. Here are some ideas about how to get started with these three freelance options.


Commentary usually runs less than 700 words, or four minutes of airtime. It offers opinion or insight like pieces on the Op-Ed page in the newspaper.

National Public Radio (NPR) airs commentary from freelancers. Two NPR news shows to pitch are All Things Considered and Morning Edition. NPR works with commentators from any location and pays $250 per commentary. For guidelines about how to pitch these two news shows visit this NPR submissions page.

Some of the 900 local public radio stations that are affiliated with NPR also air commentary. Local stations usually only work with commentators who live in the station’s listening area. These stations pay less than NPR or not at all. Visit this NPR station finder to find a station near you.


Whether it’s a comedy or a drama, scripts rely on literary elements to tell either a fiction or a non-fiction story. Scripts can range from two minutes to an hour.

The radio show This American Life is known for telling stories. You don’t need radio experience to write for This American Life. You just need to be able to tell a good story.

For information about how to pitch This American Life, read these submission guidelines . Also, check out this five-minute YouTube video titled  Ira Glass and Storytelling #1. It’s the first of four videos. Glass is the host of This American Life and considered the Pied Piper of public radio.


Just as newspapers have stringers, radio stations have freelance radio reporters. You will need your own equipment like a quality microphone and a recorder. For information about affordable equipment and resources about how to use it, check out .

For a list of radio outlets that work with freelancers, your first stop should be this pitch page Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production by Jonathan Kern. This book also has a chapter about commentaries.

You won’t get rich freelancing for radio but you never know where your radio experiences might lead. Being on radio has helped commentators attract the attention of book publishers, and radio reporters can sell their expertise to non-radio businesses that create podcasts.

Remember that just as you need to know a print publication before pitching it, you need to know the radio show you are pitching. If you never listen to the radio, tune in.

But if you are an avid radio fan, jump in. Combine your knowledge of radio with your passion for writing. The experience and clips are good for your writing resume.

Laura Bridgwater is a writer, teacher, and radio commentator. To listen to or read a transcript of her commentary, visit KUNC FM 91.5. She can be reached at

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