The first and foremost task is to come up with an idea. You can brainstorm, talk to people and read relevant publications for that purpose, but you must have an understanding of your beat. If you are not familiar with the beat, it is better to first learn more about it and then try to come up with any idea. An important thing to do is to go through the previous editions of the publication for which you want to write the story.
Contacting the Editor
Editors are always busy with one thing or the other. So if you are thinking of just calling an editor and arranging a meeting, stop right there. Most of the editors will not even grant you a meeting time and you will be required to send your idea via mail. It is better to plan in advance and use your contacts to reach the editor. Remember, if you are not granted a meeting time you must not be disappointed. Professional editors are capable enough to judge your idea through your mail.
It is time to send your idea to the editor. The idea should be convincing and persuasive and must benefit the publication in one way or the other. If it does not have an element of exclusivity, then it is better to change the idea or come up with a different angle - in short, don't write generally, conform to fit the particular style of the publication.
Choosing the Right Words and Angle
When you send your idea to the editor through mail or meet them personally, don’t expect them to listen to your entire story. Editors are looking for highlights. Tell them your idea, what main points you will cover, how it will benefit the publication, how the idea is different from others, what resources you might need and how much homework you have already done. You must have the answers to all these questions but you should not bombard the editor with loads of information; your pitch should be eloquent, precise and concise.