Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

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Want to write for the Halifax Media co-op? Here’s what you should know.

Check out this video for a rundown of what you should know.

We're looking for stories that:

- Are based in, or affect primarily, Nova Scotia and the Maritimes

- Focus on the grassroots. In other words: stories that emphasize the interests of those most affected by policies and events, rather than those with the most power and influence.

For example, a story about a homeless shelter closing down should focus on how the closure affects those living on the streets. This can be done by interviewing people who use the shelter system and (less ideally) their advocates. Those responsible for the closure should also be interviewed to explain the reasoning behind the decision, but they should not be the story’s primary source.

- Are fair, transparent and accurate.

A note on bias in reporting: The Halifax Media Coop recognizes that journalists and their media outlets make choices about which stories to pursue, which questions to ask, which quotes to include and which to exclude. Each of these choices reflects a bias. With this in mind, we ask writers to be fair, transparent and honest, rather than make questionable claims of objectivity.

Types of stories:

Although investigative features are always encouraged (see below for more in-depth guidelines), many other formats are also acceptable for the site:

- Interviews. Know of a particularly interesting/inspiring/intriguing/controversial character in the HRM? Line up an interview, record the conversation and transcribe all or part of it. A good example is Bethany Riordan-Butterworth, Storage Compartments by Carey Anne Jernigan.

- Event reports. Planning to attend an event/protest/speech/art opening? Take a few pictures, interview a few participants and an organizer, and write up a short summary. A good example is Peace Delegation Unites Arabs with Non-Arab Community by David Parker.

- Photo essays. Photos can be of a single event or an ongoing story, and visuals should be key to telling the story. Ideally, photo essays should include a short explanatory paragraph, and captions should be used when necessary. A good example is Voices from Outside by Hillary Lindsay.

- Video or audio reports. If you've got equipment to record a story and edit it into a short news piece or doc, please post it. Good examples are “Chronicle-Herald Support Rally” (video) by Glen Canning at halifax.mediacoop.ca/video/1261 and Grants for Guns? (audio) by Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, Dawn Paley and Moira Peters.

Guidelines for writing:

*** Many of our writers’ guidelines are based on the New Standard's Contributor's Handbook ***

Choosing a story

Choose a story that interests you and that you are reasonably familiar with (or are willing to research).

Try hard to avoid conflict of interest, either real or perceived. If you do choose to write on a topic of direct relevance to you, we ask that you reveal that conflict of interest either in the text or in a short bio at the end of the story.

(For example: If Joe is writing a story about an environmental organization he used to work for, he would write “Joe is former director of the Enviro-Action Team” at the end of his piece.)

When you begin looking into a story idea, do as much research as you can. Much of this information will not be included in the story, but will help provide context for your writing.

When choosing a focus for your story, it might be helpful to ask: Who is most affected by this policy/event? What is new about this story? What voices or angles have been misrepresented or not represented in other media coverage of this issue?

Interviewing Tips

Decide who to interview. Possible subjects include:

- Protagonists. People most affected by the issue or event.
- Advocates. Includes, but is not limited to:
o People personally connected to those affected, who speak on their behalf or about their situation (e.g., a family member or legal counsel).
o People who work with organizations or social movements that serve or represent those most affected and provide social context to the topic.
- Independent Analysts. People knowledgeable about the topic whose interests are mainly focused on study, not direct interaction or assistance to the protagonists (e.g., researchers at universities and think tanks)
- Institutional Actors. People who represent the institutions responsible for the policies, situations and/or events that are the focus of the story (e.g. government officials).
- Participants. These are people who attend an event such as a rally or art opening.

When conducting an interview:

- Prepare! Learn as much as possible about the person you'll be interviewing before you speak with them. Prepare a list of questions to guide you.

- Keep an open mind. Do not approach an interview with an agenda (other than getting the story).

- Maintain scepticism. Ask your sources to back up claims they make.

- Ask for specific details. Make sure you get all the names, dates, etc that you need.

- Anything to add? Ask your interviewee this question before you close an interview – you’ll often get important information that you might otherwise have missed.

Writing the story

- Keep important information towards the top of the article.

- Most articles will include a nutgraph, a paragraph that includes a basic outline of the topics to be discussed in the article. If the nutgraph is not the first paragraph, it should be as close to the top as possible. The nutgraph is crucial for letting readers know what they can expect out of your article.

- Elements of the story should flow together. Each paragraph should transition smoothly into the next by drawing connections between ideas and events.

- Do not editorialize. Commentary/opinion should be other people's, not your own.

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