Writing an article can be extremely daunting, especially if you’ve never written for a particular section, or student journalism in general, before. But do not fear! Here at qmunicate we have created a handy guide on how to get started. If you have any questions about a particular section don’t hesitate to message the relevant editor (you can find more about who’s who here), or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘FAO [name of section]’.
Without further ado, here’s some advice on how to get started!
Reviews are usually pretty flexible, but as a general rule between 200-400 words. Although if, like me, you could talk for days about your favourite artists, go for it. For gigs, try focus on key parts you liked instead of giving a running commentary on everything that happened – e.g. the lead singers enthusiasm, the crowd’s reaction, the band’s sound, potential political statements, etc. Similarly for albums, discuss your favourite tunes from it, the context of its release or the feelings it evoked for you – really anything you fancy! Add your own unique twist to your writing, don’t worry about musical jargon if that’s not what you know. If you enjoy listening to music or attending gigs, then you can write reviews! A week is usually given for reviews and I will chase you up (not literally, don’t worry) after that just to check up on how you’re getting on. It’s important they are written pretty quickly so the magazine can keep up a good relationship with our press contacts and so they’re up when album release excitement is still alive. I receive emails from our contacts and pitch any potential gig opportunities or albums that took my fancy, but never hesitate to hit me up with anything you are interested in. I will always try my very best to get you access to gigs and am always buzzing to read your work.
Features are also pretty flexible, but stick to around 700-900 words as these are longer, more in-depth pieces. You will usually have more time to write features (depending on the pitch I’d usually give about 2 weeks), so you will have time to create a killer argument. It’s helpful to plan your points into paragraphs and write each like a mini essay. Don’t let features give you the fear, depending on the subject it may require you to do your research, get some stats, examples or artist quotes to flesh out your argument. Or it may be more personal, drawing on your own experiences or thoughts. But most importantly, write as yourself! Don’t change your writing to sound all snazzy and professional, we want your unique flare.
[Grace Richardson – she/her – @headcarz]
Reviews should be around 300-500 words long. The deadline for reviews is usually a week, but sometimes for new releases the deadline may be as short as 3 or 4 days – it is essential that these deadlines are upheld in order to ensure a good working relationship with our film theatre partners. When attending a screening, particularly a press screening, it might be a good idea to bring pen & paper so that you can jot down your thoughts and keep track of character names or interesting quotes. Things that should always be included in a film review is the name of the director and the key actor(s), a short plot summary and a concluding verdict on the film, but the rest is up to you. Elements to consider when reviewing a film are the acting, cinematography, soundtrack/sound design and narrative, but you don’t necessarily need to cover all of these in a review – just what you found was important. Also, don’t be afraid to get informal in your review (It’s totally fine to include a small personal anecdote if it’s relevant to the review!). I will provide weekly tickets to screenings, but if there’s a specific film you’d like to cover then feel free to contact me and we can work something out!
Features are 700-900 word articles on a topic, either on specific films or news within the film industry. I try to keep my feature pitches quite broad, so if you take a pitch you can usually develop it in any way you want. For features that cover current events, it’s usually a good idea to include a paragraph which gives an overview of the topic or event that is being discussed. Otherwise the structure of the feature is largely dependant on its topic.
[Amelie Voges – she/her – @amelieleav]
arts & culture:
A review is about 300-400 words. I’m looking for fleshy reviews, not flashy reviews. That means you don’t want to be listing every single thing that happens, nor do you want to be giving too broad an overview. Pick out key aspects you liked and add what this was and why you liked it – (“the staging was incredible, with a giant swan at one point appearing behind the two dancers on stage. The sheer effort of the stage crew and choreographers amazed me, etc. etc.”). Or, if you didn’t like it, follow that general structure and say why you thought x was bad. Don’t be afraid to be concise! If there’s an additional context – like the show was being protested by some group or other for some reason – you can mention that but don’t waste 100 words on it. The deadline for reviews are quite strict, please get them in less than three days after the performance. Theatres want press to go up quickly and I want to keep a good relationship with the PR people.
Features are around 700-900 words. Good features are like good (Linda McCartney) steaks: a lot of (soy-based) meat, hardly any fat and medium rare. Don’t overdo it! Don’t be afraid of pitching features to me, and don’t feel overawed by writing features. I’m not going to go Gordon Ramsay on you, and I want to hear your ideas and your voice. Break it down into small paragraphs – trust me, it scans a lot easier – and structure each paragraph like a mini-essay (point, detail, conclude, repeat). The idea of writing a feature can be intense, but don’t change your ordinary writing style. I don’t want Oscar Wilde to write for me, I want you and your things. Write so you can be understood, to inform/persuade people, and above all to entertain people. Most of all, write as yourself. Give me your voice, your opinions, your well-informed and entertaining writing.
[Gabriel Rutherford – he/him – @gaberuth_]
news & opinion:
The main difference between a news piece and an opinion piece is the focus. News articles focus simply on the facts of the matter: they are succinct, descriptive, and informative. Opinion pieces on the other hand are longer, to allow the writer to express their opinion on the matter at hand. As a general rule of thumb, news pieces should be between 300-400 words, and opinion pieces between 700-900 words.
For news articles, try to think of what is the most crucial information (who, what, where, why). This information should be written in an easy to understand manner for someone who is not an expert in the matter/has no background on the topic. Avoid ‘I think’ and ‘in my opinion’ – focus on the information that is available instead. The evaluation of sources of that information (i.e. questioning the integrity of The Sun, for example) or other sources is fair, as long as you make it a 100% clear. Use a variety of sources when doing your research and always make it clear where you got your information (i.e. ‘the Reuters reports’). Additionally, use in-text links to show your information sources.
Opinion articles can be treated as an extension to a news article, in that basic background information still must be provided. Thereafter, there is more freedom to express your position on the issue you are tackling. The structure of an opinion piece is fully dependent on the topic you are discussing. Due to the very limited word count it is not recommended to focus on more than one (two maximum) key issues, as the piece becomes too scattered and uninformative. Otherwise, simply be up front of your biases, make your positions clear, and give a good argument. References in form of in-text links are always a bonus! Especially when referencing other media, or making claims that could otherwise be considered unfounded.
Angles on topics will be usually proposed with the pitch, this is however only to provide inspiration to you. Should you wish to take a different position, or you’re unsure about anything – just pop your news editor a message!
Articles are usually expected within the week, although some news pieces might require a faster turnaround.
[Tanya Gersiova – she/her]
There is no set way to write articles for features, this is because the section is extremely varied by its nature. You should take this fact as good news: it means that, as a contributor, you have a lot of room to experiment with different writing styles and registers, the only requirement being that of sticking to a length of around 700-900 words per article. When thinking about where to start in terms of content, you could find it useful to focus on the essential elements of who, what, when, where, how and why. If writing an article on, let’s say, queerbaiting, you could address some of the following questions: what is queerbaiting? When did the term emerge? Who does it have an impact on? Why is it worth discussing about?, and so on. Answering all of the questions surrounding a topic in 700-900 words is impossible, which is why you should decide on an “angle” – a way to focus your feature. Most of the time, features pitches are designed to be very open, so to allow contributors to provide their own perspectives. This means you shouldn’t shy away from interpreting them freely. If you come up with an original pitch you would like to write about, feel free to tell us about it. Should you get stuck for any reason, let us know too, so that we can find a solution together. Happy writing!
[Megan Willis – she/her & Ema Fazzio – she/her]
As a general rule, around 300-400 words for these! There’s not a whole lot of restrictions when it comes to lifestyle so go where your gut takes you. Preferably try to structure it with a few short paragraphs as opposed to one big wall of text just for ease of reading. The pitches I put forth in meetings are usually very flexible and if you’d like to take a different angle to the one I mentioned, just shoot me a message on Facebook and let me know. More often than not, it should be absolutely fine. Equally, if you’d like to write something in particular that hasn’t been pitched, let me know and I’ll usually be able to accommodate that for you!
[Rebecca Gault – she/her – @rebeccagault7]
[Image credit: Isabelle Ribe]