Allvoices Writers' Resources: 5 tips for American Pundit writers
Jan. 20, 2012
Note: This is a companion report to American Pundit contest on Campaign 2012 brings paid political punditry to the people, also published on Jan. 20, 2012.
5 tips for American Pundit writers
1. Use correct spelling and grammar. It sounds almost too basic to mention, but it must be mentioned because it is so important. Not sure if it’s “Barack” or “Barak” Obama? Use Google to search and find a reliable source, such as the official Obama Web page, to get the correct spelling. Not sure if “Oval Office” is capitalized? Do a search in Google News and see how other sources are writing it. Allvoices prefers Associated Press style for its Select Media and American Pundit stories, so consulting an AP Stylebook will give you quick answers to pesky usage questions.
2. To write well and get good ideas, read good political writers daily. This is not to suggest copying their ideas – not at all – but you might find that reading political columnists (see "Sources and resources" at the end of this report) will inspire you to present your own thoughts in more original ways by helping you clarify what it is you want to say and inspiring you to say it in your own fresh voice.
3. Consider developing your own “beat” of sorts. If Ron Paul’s ideas about liberty interest you, report and offer commentary on news from the Paul campaign. If you can’t get enough about Mitt Romney, then tune in to what’s happening in the Romney camp and share your take on it with readers. If you believe that probable Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson deserves more media attention, then give it to him by covering his campaign and offering your views on his presidential bid.
Additional areas where expert or specialized reporting can help you build readership include hot-button issues like immigration, taxation, same-sex marriage, foreign policy, medical marijuana and more.
Rather than writing a single epic report of 3,000 words on, say, the politics of marijuana, break it into four or five reports on where the current candidates and President Obama stand on medical cannabis, or the regulatory guidelines for states that have passed medical marijuana laws. Link to your other related reports where appropriate within the report or at the end under the "Sources and resources" section. Be sure to offer your opinion, analysis or commentary as well; if your own viewpoints are backed up by solid factual reporting, readers will take you more seriously.
4. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to other websites. Sure, self-promotion can be awkward, but if you really have something to say and want others to read it, it could help to prepare a standardized but readily adjustable email. Do not send them out en masse – that would be spamming, which is never a good idea and won’t win you any friends. Instead, carefully research sites you think might be interested in your work and approach them with individualized introductions:
I found your website while doing a search for “the politics of agriculture.” I am a citizen journalist for Allvoices.com, participating in its American Pundit political writing contest. I am covering Campaign 2012 and will be reporting on such issues as the labeling of genetically modified foods, tobacco subsidies and the proper mission of the Food and Drug Administration. I’ve included a link to a recent report [insert link here] and would like to invite you to follow my work by visiting my Allvoices profile page at [insert link here]. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments.
(Your name and email address here)
5. Develop your own mailing list (and proofreading resources). Let’s face it, some of your friends and relatives would read what you wrote if you sent them the link via email, but they can’t be bothered to go surfing the Web to find it. Make it easy on them. Consider sending out a feeler to your contact list, asking them to indicate if they would like to be on your political email list. You don’t have to limit it to your own work, either. If you know that Aunt Hazel would just love that piece another Allvoices writer wrote on Michelle Obama’s fabulous sense of style, include that as a bonus link. Occasionally promoting others’ work as well as your own builds goodwill and increases viewership for everyone.
It’s also worth noting that even careful writers sometimes make a typo or leave out a word. It’s a good idea to tell at least a few of your regular readers, perhaps even some of your friends on Allvoices, that you don’t mind at all if they tell you about typos or other errors they might see. Allvoices users won’t always agree on politics, but we all agree that a sentence incorrectly using “form” instead of “from” (one of Punditty’s frequent slip-ups) is something worth fixing. Always be respectful and professional if you notify another user of something that needs to be fixed.
Sources and resources:
The following sites offer links to thought-provoking political commentary:
Real Clear Politics (wide variety)
The Drudge Report (wide variety; scroll down below the day’s headlines to look for individual columnists, usually listed alphabetically in the middle column)
Politico’s Opinions page (wide variety, but slightly right-leaning)
Townhall.com (generally conservative)
Lew Rockwell (generally libertarian-leaning)
Common Dreams (generally liberal-leaning)
Follow @AmericanPundits on Twitter
Complete set of Writers' Resources reports: