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Contributor Guidelines

Contributor Guidelines

Before you report or write an article:

  • Propose each story in advance with the story proposal form (at the end of this document). You can submit that either via e-mail with a filled-out and attached Word document or in person to the editor/editor’s mailbox. Know and respect the newspaper’s deadline and publication dates; don’t pitch or promise something you cannot deliver with time constraints.
  • Set up a time to speak with the editor about the story idea either in the office or over the phone. If the editor approves the story idea, you will discuss story direction and sourcing before you begin working on the piece.

While reporting the story:

  • Your article should have a minimum of two sources. One-source stories will not be accepted.
  • Don’t just rely on e-mail to contact sources; the phone is still the best way to set up an interview, though it is nice to send a confirmation e-mail. And for faculty, don’t hesitate to visit their office hours if you can’t get in touch with them. Most faculty office hours are listed on WCC Web site: http://www.wccnet.edu/.
  • When you set up interviews with your sources, make sure to let them know approximately how long the interview should take, whether it be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
  • Never conduct an interview over e-mail, instant message or text message. Period. No exceptions. An in-person interview is paramount, though a telephone interview is also an option.
  • Prepare at least 3-5 questions in advance. Ask questions that will get the most reader-worthy answers. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no. And save your toughest questions for the end of your interview.
  • When talking to student sources, always collect their full name, age, hometown and major. When using faculty or administrator sources, be sure to record their full name and title.
  • Make sure to take verbatim quotes in addition to basic information. Definitely consider a tape recorder, because, although you will need to take the time to transcribe the tape accurately, it will ensure that you don’t miss anything.
  • Dress professionally, as you are a representative of The Washtenaw Voice. Business casual works best.
  • Always think of photo and graphic illustration possibilities and communicate with the editor and photo editor about them.

While writing the story:

  • When writing, stay away from the first-person perspective (example: I walked to work), except in opinion pieces, and stay way from the second person (example: you walked to work), except in reader-guide stories. Keep yourself and your opinions out of every article except opinion pieces. No one cares what you think – they care about the facts.
  • If your source is a notable person whom you spoke to over the phone, note that. If quotes are from a speech or news release, say so.
  • Don’t hesitate to think in terms of a multi-piece article, such as a main article and a sidebar (a short, related story that complements your main piece). Just be sure to update the editor of all major shifts from what you originally discussed.
  • On your article draft, write a headline that we can consider for print. Writers know their stories the best, so we always want to see a headline proposal.
  • All copy should conform to Associated Press (AP) style. We strongly recommend that you purchase an AP stylebook and refer to it while you write your article.
  • All copy should be single-spaced, paragraphs indented.
  • It is vital to e-mail all copy before deadlines (and it is really preferred that you be available via e-mail or phone to re-work a draft pronto if it needs changes). Please see the list of 2009-10 deadlines below.