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Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Editorial Policy


The following policies apply for all articles published by The International regardless of which section they are for.

1. Importance and interest

Your article should raise awareness about an important economic or social issue. Such topics include, but are not limited to:

• Major ongoing conflicts. e.g. Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen.
• Economic issues. e.g. Poverty and hunger, employment and economic development, intra and interstate trade, financial systems, debt management, information and communications technologies.
• Environmental issues. e.g. Climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity, water and sanitation, slums.
• Health issues. e.g. Child and maternal mortality, essential drugs, healthcare, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
• Other issues. e.g. Education, gender equality, housing, civil rights, literacy, democracy, racism, freedom of expression, torture, slavery, rule of law, militarization, nuclear weapons, foreign aid.

The opening line of your article should draw the reader in. Then, one (or more) paragraph(s) should explain the event in more detail in a way that someone from any culture would understand. You must ignite strong interest to read your article. If readers are not interested, they will not learn about the issue. Please also bear in mind that with the content of our partnership with IranPolitik, stories related to Iran will largely be covered, so we would ask you to verify whether the specific topic has yet been covered by them if you choose a topic that relates to Iran.

Establish the importance of the event. Why should the reader care? For example, if you are reporting about a conflict, you must not take a stance against any party involved. However, you must elicit feelings about the conflict. These must not originate from sensationalism or result in defeatism. Beware of using statistics, as they may create distance rather than elicit interest. When possible, put your readers in awe and make them view the world in a different way.

Include at least two testimonies from witnesses of the event. If using witness accounts from other news outlets, you must cite your source. Testimonies must be devoid of stereotypes or hatred and must portray how the event directly affects people. The testimonies can come from your own interviewing or from your research. If you are covering a conflict, you must include testimonies from people of all sides involved. They must come from various witnesses and not only from press statements or officials who were not there. Report on the reliability of all accounts.

2. Impartiality

First and foremost, it shall not be sensed that there is an opinion in favor of one side in particular behind the article. You must not have any preconceived judgments on the issue. Report on all the ideas, statements, and actions with regard to the issue without any prejudice toward where they come from.

Provided that the paragraphs are of similar length, there must be an equal number of paragraphs discussing different views. Furthermore, the paragraphs must alternate. If the article reports on views A, B, C, the paragraphs must be as follows: in favor of A, in favor of B, in favor of C, A, B, C, etc.

In order to remain impartial, a journalist should not divide parties into two simplistic groups of good and bad. Avoid stark distinctions between groups; instead, seek one group’s traits and actions in the other group, and vice versa. Disaggregate the traditional two sides into all the groups involved, with their many needs and interests. Explain how the different stakeholders relate to each other and how they are trying to influence or gain from an event. The article must not contain any victimizing or demonizing language. Discuss the differences of opinion, but make sure to point out and highlight similarities of opinion where they can be found. Is there somewhere that people can find a point of agreement?

Avoid reporting opinions as facts. For example, instead of writing “country X, said to be responsible for the death of (…),” you should write, “country X, accused by organization Y to be responsible for the death of (…).” Be precise in your reporting. Instead of using vague words, describe the exact facts and ideas. As such, the following words should be avoided:

• anti-America
• atrocity
• barbaric
• brutal
• catastrophic
• chaos
• cruel
• devastated
• dovish
• extremist
• fanatic
• far-left
• far-right
• fundamentalist
• hawkish
• horror
• left-wing
• pathetic
• pro-America
• radical
• right-wing
• terrorist
• tragedy
• troublemakers
• vicious

You must also be very careful if you employ these words:

• assassination: Murder of a head of state.
• decimated: Reduced by a tenth of its original size.
• genocide: The wiping out of an entire population.
• massacre: Deliberate killing of unarmed people.
• systematic: Organized in a deliberate pattern.

3. Factual accuracy

You are prohibited from using participatory encyclopedias and participatory news websites for fact checking. In order to get the big picture about an issue, you are encouraged to visit your local library and consult Encyclopaedia Britannica or other peer-reviewed scholarly sources. For up-to-date information, you should consult websites of serious NGOs and news outlets. Verify the accuracy of every fact that you report with one of these sources.

When including analysis of the issues and their development, use peer-reviewed sources found through EbscoHOST, Google Scholar, or other serious scholarly search engines.

Unquoted normative statements are prohibited. Whenever you report on the way things ought to be, the information must come from the direct or indirect quote of an expert. Furthermore, you must cite your source whenever you include information from outside The International.

4. Multimedia

You must include a professional-looking real world photo with every article. Always verify that it is available under a creative commons license and avoid using images from Wikimedia as it takes away from The International’s credibility. The best sources are Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/search/?l=cc&ct=0) and Google (http://images.google.com/search?tbs=itp:photo,sur:f&tbm=isch&q=-wikimedia+-wikipedia). Please use these exact links to begin your search as they contain the appropriate filters. Send us the link to the photo you intend to use and include a caption about what is in the photo as well as a precise date.

It is strongly advised to include other media elements such as charts, graphs, slideshows, and videos. You can make some of that material yourself or include non-copyrighted material from other sources.

5. Compliance with good grammar, content, and style

Headlines are capitalized but subtitles are not. These must not contain the name of an organization unless the event or investigation directly concerns one. Present something interesting about the event in your headline. What makes it important? Is there new development or information? Is there any progress about the underlying issue? Headlines should be kept to 78 characters or less.

All spelling and punctuation must be in American English. You must have at least two subtitles within the article. Wherever possible, use short sentences in the active voice and present tense, with few dependent clauses.

Start every article by briefly explaining the event in a way that any international audience would understand. For example, if you are writing about an event happening in China, think about the person in South Africa who is reading your article.

6. Promotion of content

You must include the following measures to ensure that the articles receive proper promotion online:

- The Google headline: The first and main headline of the article must take search engine optimization into account. What are some of the terms that we can expect Google users to search for? These should be the primary guide when writing the headline.

- The Twitter lead: For each article, a lead that includes Twitter hashtags should be submitted. It can be similar to the headline, but it can really be anything else as well. The Google headline is tailored for people who will pull the article, but on Twitter, articles are pushed to followers rather than pulled. This should be taken into account in the way the lead is formulated.

- The Facebook lead: A few sentences that will ignite strong interest in the article. Again, this is pushed rather than pulled, and should be formulated as such.

Your articles must cover one of the recent topics in the RSS feeds below:

Politics: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553018/rss.xml
Commerce: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553026/rss.xml
Environment: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553029/rss.xml
Health: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553032/rss.xml
Culture: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553033/rss.xml
Rights: http://www.rssmix.com/u/3553035/rss.xml

Exceptions can be made if approved by the Managing Editor.

1. Investigation

Review documents, request interviews, and look into the actions of one or many actors in an important economic or social issue. Find valuable information that identifies a lapse from the truth about the actions of any entity regardless of its political or other leanings. Which companies, organizations, and governments are involved? What are the repercussions of their actions, either directly or indirectly?

Journalists must not be stenographers and instead need to go beyond the standard press-release responses that media-savvy individuals and organizations may give. Actors should be asked about their underlying goals, motivations, and what they believe are the implications of their actions. You should also be able to state which actions were not done to resolve an issue and why. Report about what has been done before. Has it worked? Why or why not?

Obtain new information about the actions of the entity from insiders, outsiders, and witnesses. Gather as much evidence as you can to support your case and document every detail of the story.

2. News

Collect information about what is happening on the ground in one part of the world – right as it happens. You can get this information from any source as long as you are able to fully confirm its accuracy. Twitter can be a valuable source for this as it gives information from people who are present at the events very quickly. Compare different accounts and establish the authority of the sources. Since you are dealing with facts, you do not need to quote every one of your sources. Retrieve only the facts from this process – and then provide some context around them. You can also obtain the information from trusted sources that you know on the ground.

The context that you provide should give readers a better understanding of the relationship between every factual development and the issue as a whole. As a new development occurs, you must confirm the accuracy of that information as quickly as possible and include it in your reporting. Attach a timestamp to every update you make to your article. You must include the information that is most important for readers to know throughout the duration of the event.

3. Focus

Report on the development of an issue and offer valuable insight. Is there an important new perspective about the issue that readers should know about? These perspectives should be impartial and offer a better understanding of the underlying causes of the issue as well as its possible solutions.

Explain the different views on the issue you are covering. The point of this mandate is not to throw an unmanageable number of facts at the reader, but to help him/her understand what is going on. Put yourself in the mind of a reader: "These people don’t agree with those people. How come? What happened? Why is there animosity between these groups?" You must answer these questions. In addition to the visible effects of the event, seek the invisible ones. Be careful not to fall into the trap of reporting everything as debates; instead, make sure to help readers to further understand the issue.

In order to give rise to a fair understanding of an issue, a contextual presentation is required. Some questions a reporter should ask him/herself when discussing the issue: Is there something deeper to the event currently being covered? Has this been going on for a while? (e.g. The root of the Arab-Israeli conflict comes from decades ago. The root of the recession comes from decisions made years ago.) Do not blame a single group for a detrimental event. When reporting on incidences of violence, be careful not to illustrate previous violence as the only explanation.

4. Culture

Explain the different cultural viewpoints on an important economic or social issue or seek to address any misconceptions that people may have about a cultural issue. In their perspectives about different cultures, people are sometimes misinformed about numerous aspects. Expose these misconceptions and provide the accurate information.

When reporting about an economic or social issue, show the opinions of people from all cultures that have a stake in the issue. Help readers to better understand these opinions and why they might differ from theirs. Explore the history, religion, and tradition that lie behind these different viewpoints and help readers to see where similarities of opinion can be found.

Always dissociate extremist views from those of a culture as a whole. Many groups have extremist and violent subsets, but that doesn’t make for the views of the majority. Make that distinction clear and report the actual facts.

5. Foresight

Report on events that could develop into issues that either affect a greater number of people or affect them to a greater extent. Such issues could be, for example, economic or social conditions that are conducive to the instigation of a conflict. Seek to report about the most imminent and important developments.

Your goal should not be to prevent that development to occur. You should only provide all the information pertaining to this possible development and leave any value judgment to other organizations. As such, you should report about any events that are likely to occur regardless of whether they would be seen as positive or negative by our readers.

The key to this mandate is to identify major political or economic shifts that are likely to occur in an impartial manner for people and organizations around the world to adapt their activities accordingly. For example, this would include any possible change of government, beginning or end of a conflict, increase or decrease in food prices, climate change developments, as well as any other topic that is compliant with our Editorial Policy.

6. Enterprise

Highlight a new or existing organization that brings forward a solution to an issue. What are the short- and long-term repercussions of that initiative? Why was it created and how did it get to where it is now? What have been the results until now and which ones are expected in the future?

As much as possible, seek to have an interview with a person in charge of the organization or project. This is the best and easiest way to answer most of the above questions. Afterwards, in the spirit of hard-hitting quality journalism, compare the person’s statements with the literature. Are the results that he or she is expecting realistic?

In order to remove any defeatism resulting from the discussion of issues that seem hard to resolve, you must remember to present them as a failure of prevention. This requires highlighting resolution efforts, wherever they may be coming from, and why they were ineffective in preventing the issue. Giving prominence to these initiatives helps make the continuation of these problems seem “abnormal.”