Journalism Guide Lines

WRITING GUIDELINES

Journalism Guide Lines

Introduction:

This is a guide that will explain, and help you understand, the standards that Shout Out UK are endeavouring to achieve, and thus will consistently expect, from the articles submitted for publication. Shout Out UK is not a political organisation. Shout Out UK is a non-biased (insomuch as anything can be deemed ‘non-biased’) independent news network operated by young people, in order to give a voice to today’s youth. We focus on creating and distributing reliable and well-written news article on topics our young writers find interesting (the vast majority are based within the realm of politics), in order to engage our readership. Now that you have some background, let’s get straight into the task of writing informative, well-structured and coherent articles.

Key Notes

  • Firstly, ALL articles are to be written in British English. NOT American English. (EG: Colour, NOT color, Defence, NOT defense).

  • Within reason, the subject matter will vary according to the nature of the publication and the intended audience. Therefore write in a manner that is fitting with the content of your article.

  • Your articles should be a hybrid between an intellectual and informative debate with proper grammar, and a passionate, enthusiastic piece that has flair and originality. This allows you to find the sweet spot between being informed and understandable and being able to express your views and opinions.

What is our Writing Style?

Our writing style aims to offer a youth orientated perspective on all the topics we cover. This youth orientation must be a part of all articles you upload for publication (e.g. If your write a summary of the UK national Budget launch, covering the topics most interesting to young people, hence first time buyers, unemployment, tuition etc…).

With regard to the Journalism, we have 3 preferred styles:

Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism is a primary source of information. Most investigative journalism is conducted by newspapers, wire services*, and freelance journalists. Practitioners sometimes use the terms “watchdog journalism” (though that has a broader meaning) or “accountability reporting”. * A news agency may also be referred to as a wire service, newswire, or news service. e.g. The Guardian, Wikileaks, The Economist

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Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often, but not always, including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to be first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. Gonzo Journalists will often use creative prose, or creative and imaginative storytelling, to let the reader experience the emotions involved in a story. e.g. Hunter S. Thimpson, 1970

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New Journalism was the name given to a style of 1960s and 1970s news writing and journalism that used literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. The term was codified with its current meaning by Tom Wolfe in a 1973 collection of journalism articles. It is typified by using certain devices of literary fiction, such as conversational speech, first-person point of view, recording everyday details and telling the story using scenes. Though it seems undisciplined at first, new journalism maintains elements of reporting including strict adherence to factual accuracy and the writer being the primary source. To get “inside the head” of a character, the journalist asks the subject what they were thinking or how they felt. Because of its unorthodox style, new journalism is typically employed in feature writing or book-length reporting projects. This is often associated with its more aggressive partner, Gonzo Journalism. e.g. Tom Wolfe, 1973

We Suggest picking one of the above that best suits your writing preference.

How to Write an Article: Researching & Writing

  • Background knowledge: Research allows you to have a critical analysis of the subject matter. You must interpret information, be able to criticise others when necessary and also defend the assertions you make with evidence (see ‘referencing your sources’ below)

  • Structure and prior planning: This will help you create a fluent and focused article that successfully leads the reader to a more informed understanding.

  • One simple technique is PEEL.

  • Make a Point, give an example, support it with an explanation/analysis and link to the context.

  • Write clear, coherent, grammatically correct prose.

  • Follow the rules of English grammar. Poor grammar, misspellings and punctuation errors are avoidable and, therefore, inexcusable. So please PROOF-READ YOUR WORK.

  • Less is more. Being succinct is not bad. There is absolutely no need to write irrelevant things.

  • Create debate. Use rhetorical questions. Give the reader something to think about and help galvanise them to engage in our social media forums.

  • Document and reference your sources. You cannot make a valid claim without backing it up with reliable sources of information. Therefore do not rely on hearsay, vague generalisations or un-defended opinions. Direct quotations must have a reference, as must any idea that you lift entirely from another source. This preceding example: ‘Country A has killed 10 people in country B’ needs to have a source (e.g website, link to document etc.) in a footnote that is included somewhere in the article you submit for publication.

Strive for clarity and coherence. Writing well is demanding work, so be prepared to write drafts that you then edit to produce a final version. Act in a professional manner. Your work is a reflection of you. Make sure you have proof-read your article before submitting it. This makes the Editor’s job easier because when they are forced to edit your work, they bring into jeopardy the impartial license with which the article was originally written by the author.

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Shout Out UK’s Guide to Good Article Writing

Research

You could say that research is what makes a good journalist and a great journalist will delve that little bit deeper than the rest and discover something that others have missed. Research is what makes and breaks a journalist.

Tips: If you don’t know where to start, begin with online articles and then use keywords to see what comes up. Sometimes an article will contain a link to a source, check that too. Always consider your sources carefully. For instance, is the source an unknown Linda McCrazy on Facebook who’s claiming that abortion prevents women from ever conceiving again? Or is it a medical journal or an article in a respected newspaper/magazine written by a practising doctor? And even then use your judgment, no expert has the final word on the truth, and as a journalist it is your duty to help people become more informed so they can make up their own minds. So if you have your doubts, do more research, maybe even consult older sources (cautiously) they may support your view and still be relevant today.

Ideas

It can be difficult to keep coming up with new ideas. The fact is, you will inevitably experience dry spells when it seems like all your good ideas have dried-up and all the great ideas have been taken and/or become mundane rehashes.

Tips: Keep developing your own knowledge base. The more widely you read and take an interest in different things the more active your mind will be and it will be easier to develop a new and interesting idea for an article piece.

Pegs’ these are another nifty journalist’s tool for extracting ideas. Let’s say you just read something about Greece and the fact that the people are losing hope in Syriza. Well, why not attach a little ‘think -peg’ to the word ‘hope’ and consider how you could develop an original article piece around this concept. Maybe you could write about some philosopher’s views on hope and how this applies to our society today? Just Google, ‘philosophical writings on hope’ and see what that gets you – yes, it does mean hours of work put into doing new reading, but then you are a journalist after all, it’s your job to seek out new information for your readers. You can attach these pegs to anything and everything when you read something and build your ideas around them.

Your background

Though journalists are known for being quick to familiarise themselves with new content and foreign topics, regardless of this, you will each have something in particular that you know especially well, either from direct experience or study. Maybe you are someone with a mathematical background, or an artistic incline, or a psychology or literature degree. Great! Whatever your personal history use that (subtly) to your advantage when you write articles. This will give them a certain richness and originality, helping them to standout.

Tips: Applying your specific background needs to be done mindfully. This means, if you’re writing a piece on culture, and you have a background in psychology, maybe consider what some well-known psychologists said about cultural tendencies. You can also add an interesting quote or two to help liven-up your piece. Remember that the quality of an article is in the detail.

The other thing is your personal writing style. This mainly includes things like vocabulary range, choice of expressions and perspective, which will considerably be influenced by your background. For instance, science people will know various terminologies that ordinary people do not. Those in the humanities may approach a given topic from a literary or philosophical perspective/angle. The important thing is to always explain everything as simply and clearly as possible – don’t just expect your readers to know what an epiphenomenon is for instance.

Always remember your readers

Sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many times I have read articles that seem to forget all about the reader. You may want to show that you have a great grasp of the subject matter, that you have done plenty of research etc. However, too often, the result is an overly-complex article that is full of unfamiliar and hostile terminology which the writer has failed to define or explain, and all that usually achieves is a very low readership. Only a handful of people will be able to recognise how brilliantly you’ve just incorporated Kant’s Categorical Imperative or how astute and funny your Tolstoy joke is – provided they are familiar with who these individuals are and their work.

Tip: Set your ego aside when you begin writing. However tempted you may be to disregard your readers, the only one who will suffer in the end, will be you. That doesn’t mean you can’t write an accomplished, smart, witty article with a few technical words here and there. The answer is balance and restraint. You want to sound sophisticated but not pompous, so whenever you feel yourself going off into a monologue, just tell yourself that even the best reader will have their limits. So always remember to remember the reader!

Grammar/Spelling/Style

We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is crucial. Yes, we have an editor, that would be me, but you cannot always expect the editor to fix your work. All editors are human like yourself, which means we too can make mistakes, and if we get an article that has problems on all three fronts, that is, grammar, spelling, and style, we’re more likely to miss something and make a mistake ourselves.

Tips: Proofread your work at least once but not immediately after you’ve finished it. Give it at least an hour, let your brain and your eyes rest, and then come back to it with a fresh mind. Even the best writers usually spot something that could be made better. Maybe you can phrase that particular sentence a little clearer or make it shorter. Break that long paragraph up or remove superfluous words that mean virtually the same thing.

Also, if you’re unsure of a spelling/rule just Google it. Check it in the online dictionaries and grammar resources like Grammar Girl. Once you have that under control, then your style will become better and come across more clearly. The editor in turn, can then just do some touch-ups here and there if necessary.

Articles/Essays

Another problem we’ve been experiencing is writers sending us essay-style articles, which are really disguised essays. There are some key differences between the two:

  • Essays are usually much longer, over 2,000 words.

  • Articles are generally between 500 and 1,500 words.

  • Essays delve into the topic much more deeply.

  • Articles tend to give summary versions of the most relevant/interesting information at hand.

  • Essays often include page numbers of sources and the name of a given source within the main body of the text.

  • Articles do not do this. They either include hyperlinks within the text or separate links/acknowledgements to the sources used at the end of the article.

  • Essays tend to be drier and more formal/analytical in style.

  • Articles tend to be less formal, more conversational, but are still informative/factual and with good analysis that gets straight to the point.

These are the minimum basics you need to follow to write great articles.

Good luck!

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 Journalism Guide Lines

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