Scott Carney 

Scott Carney is the founder of WordRates. He's also an award-winning investigative journalist and anthropologist whose stories blend narrative nonfiction with ethnography. He is the author of three books including The Red Market and A Death on Diamond Mountain and a former contributing editor at Wired. Other works of his has appeared in Mother Jones, Foreign Policy, Playboy, Details, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. He is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and lives in Denver, CO.

Reviews (10)

Mother Jones 1 year ago

I don't know where my career would be without Mother Jones. While I was a freelancer based in India they backed me through several hard-hitting investigations that no other magazine would touch. They publish a wide-range of long form pieces and, in my experience working with Monika Bauerlein and Mike Mechanic, have some of the most thoughtful editors in the business. Their contract is extremely fair with a stipulation that they will pay within two weeks of submission (though sometimes they need nudging to remind them of their contract).     

New York Times Magazine 1 year ago

A few months ago I had a conversation with an editor at the magazine who told me that they kill 50% of the stories they assign. The only way I can interpret this is that they intentionally over-assign in order to choose from a wider selection of quality content. Unfortunately their contract does not mention that they are speculating on content, and if they don't run a story the NYT mag will still only pay the 25% kill fee. This is not an ethical usage of the kill-fee clause. They are counting on killing stories in their business model, not because reporters are necessarily doing a bad job. While it may make the magazine higher quality for readers, it takes advantage of writers who are awed the the possibility of a byline here that they will under-cut their own interests. This happened to me on a story I wrote for the Times that went through eight drafts only to be killed. There was a problem with the piece, of course: It was investigative in nature and the idea that I pitched in good faith did not turn out to exist once I had spent several weeks researching the idea in India. We weren't able to do a write-around to fix the idea and I ended up wasting a colossal amount of time on a dead end story. All that said, The New York Times magazine is probably one of the most consistently excellent long-form magazines in the country. Their editors are generally some of the most experienced in the business and landing a story in these pages can help slingshot a writer's career to a new level. However, I cannot in good conscience give the NYTmagazine anything more than a 3-star review because of its practice of speculating on content.    

Playboy 1 year ago

Most people are at least mildly amused when I tell them that I write for Playboy. There is a stigma that Playboy is porn and that their editorial standards must not be that good. The go-to line has always been "I read it for the articles," followed with a swift and obvious wink. The truth is, however, that Playboy isn't actually porn (the Internet eclipsed that status a long long time ago). Both of the feature articles I wrote for them were fact checked and edited smartly. They were consistently able to make decisions on pitches within a week. Payment was 2 weeks after submission, and expenses were very straight forward. They paid a fixed fee for an articles of 5,000-6,500 words and offered a generous rate. The only reason that I'm giving them 4 stars instead of 5 is that they recently let go of my editor Stephen Randall, and I have been hearing rumors that the magazine is going to have some changes in their staffing that will make Playboy less hospitable to writers.     

Outside 1 year ago

Outside runs fantastic feature editorials and has passionate editors that put their hearts into the pieces they work on. I have had a great experiences working with them on a story about emergency beacons a few years ago. They are pretty well respected in the industry and are a solid home for long form stories. The only caveat I have for Outside is that over the years they have had a reputation to pay their writers late. Several writers have told me it has taken several months to process invoices. One person said it took more than a year.     

Dean Robinson 1 year ago

I have conflicting feelings about Dean as an editor. On one hand he has worked on some amazing stories (there was a time that the NYTm listed editors on pieces, and one he did on an art heist in Europe was riveting) and I know several people who have worked with him over the years who recommend him highly. On the other hand, when I worked with him on a difficult investigative piece he was less than helpful. The initial draft had some underlying problems, and his feedback was tepid at best. He asked me to rewrite the story eight times (literally eight times) but never gave actionable feedback that would give the piece a path to being published. It seems to me that he speculates on stories by sending a reporter out into the field (often at their own expense) to see what they bring back. All the NYTm is out if the story doesn't work out is the 20% kill fee. This model exposes the freelance journalist to a fair amount of financial (and possibly physical) risk, but lets the NYT cherry pick the best pieces. While I'm sure that if a piece you pitch him works out perfectly that he is a good editor to work with, beware if there are any uncertainties in the reporting you are going to undertake.     

Monika Bauerlein 1 year ago

I started working with Monika back in 2007 on a complex investigative feature searching for abducted children that took me from an urban Indian metropolis to a small town on the Great Lakes. The story was expensive, risky, and raised endless ethical and legal issues. Monika stood by me for the entire six months it took to write the piece, and in the end it was one of the most riveting stories that I ever had the opportunity to work on. It just wouldn't have been the same without her steady editorial judgement the whole way through.     

Jesse Ashlock 1 year ago

Two of the stories that I worked on with Jesse while he was at Details turned into books. So that's a pretty cool record. Since then he has gone on to positions with the New York Times Style magazine and now with Travel + Leisure where he gets to send reporters all around the world to luxury resorts. The last time I worked with him he sent me to a snow-covered mountain top in Poland wearing nothing but my skivvies. Thanks Jesse. Looking forward to an assignment some day where you send me to a beach.     

Alex Heard 1 year ago

Alex is one of the best editors in the business with a reputation for working closely with writers to make the best possible stories. He edited a piece I wrote on the abuse of emergency locator beacons a few years ago and his attention to detail as well as the respect he showed for the piece through the entire pipeline made me realize exactly why he as lasted so long in this business. He also has a pretty funny twitter feed that you should check out.     

Shane Singh 1 year ago

Shane was the research editor on two feature stories that I wrote for Playboy. He had a tenacious nose for details and my pieces were much better because of his efforts. He has since risen up to associate editor, which means he will have a more central role in crafting stories, and while I haven't yet had the opportunity to work with him in that capacity, I am confident in his abilities.     

Charles Homans 1 year ago

I have worked with Charlie since he was am editor at Foreign Policy and have great respect for his editorial instincts. With him I did features on resource conflicts in central India and border issues between India and Bangladesh. He consistently gave excellent feedback and smart edits. Before the NYtimes he was the executive editor at TheAtavist where he worked exclusively on long form features.    


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