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Select Media guidelines help Allvoices writers maintain high editorial standards

Since its 2008 debut, Allvoices has taken several quality-control measures to ensure reports featured on the home page are grounded in basic journalistic procedures and offer readers perspectives they will not find anywhere else on the Web.

While Allvoices continues to welcome “all voices” to its citizen-journalism and news-discussion platform, that doesn’t mean that a barebones, unsubstantiated report deserves the same amount of visibility as a well-reasoned, well-written opinion piece by a seasoned columnist. Allvoices gives all writers an equal opportunity, but the quality, tone and overall strength of each piece is what determines which stories will get top billing during a given news cycle.

The Select Media program is an important way of identifying the strongest writers, promoting their work and paying them the top rate for their reports. Over the past several months, Allvoices has assembled an international team of professional editors to help make this happen.

Select Media submissions must meet eight guidelines, listed here (updated Jan. 13, 2014) and commented on below.

1. Author has a reputation for quality reporting.

Allvoices has three categories of writers: Stringers, Reporters and Anchors. Only Anchors and approved Stringers and Reporters can submit to Select Media. All writers are Stringers when they first sign up and can become Anchors either through the strength of their first few reports or if the site’s algorithms suggest them for promotion after 15 reports with full credibility. In either case, real human editors with experience in old-time ink-and-paper newsrooms or television journalism make the final decisions.

2. It must be at least 400 words, with rare exceptions for especially engaging reports of more than 350 words. Most Select Media submissions in excess of 1,000 words will not be considered for the program. Rare exceptions may be made, however, if little or no editing is required. Any notes or links added by Allvoices will not count toward the 1,000 words.

This rule is self-explanatory, although in some rare instances, an exception may be made – emphasis on “rare.”

3. It must be written for a US audience, with relevant tags and keywords.

While we welcome and encourage writers from all over the world, our focus is on news that holds appeal for US-based readers. Tags are basically super-keywords that help search engines find your story. A report about an election, for example, would obviously contain the names of the candidates. Those would be keywords, and that part of the requirement takes care of itself in the writing of the story. You will be prompted for tags during the publishing process and can choose to enter your own, select from the system’s prompts or a combination of both. But Select Media reports cannot be devoid of tags.

4. It must not simply be rewritten news already covered by the media. You must bring a new story or a new perspective not covered anywhere else in a way that will remain fresh and interesting even after the news event is no longer "breaking.”

While stories that summarize and re-present news from other sources can be informative, they do not rise to the level of originality that Select Media standards require. A successful Select Media submission will involve original thinking, original reporting, original research or a combination of all three. It can, of course, rely on other sources, but information from those sources should serve more as background rather than the focus of the Allvoices story.

5. News stories must include some element of original reporting or research, in addition to links back to the sources used and citations of those sources in the report where appropriate. Opinion pieces also must include facts, statistics or other research to support the articles' claims, in addition to links back to the sources used.

This goes hand in hand with No. 4 but emphasizes giving credit where credit is due. As Internet–based citizen journalism expands its reach, its viability and impact as a difference-maker will depend largely on citizen reporters’ diligence in following basic journalistic standards. Proper attribution and factual accuracy are at the top of the list.

6. The writing must be excellent -- well written, thoughtful, clear and coherent -- with minimal grammatical or stylistic errors and no spelling or factual errors. Reports requiring heavy editing or containing copyright violations will not be approved. A guide to Allvoices Select Media style can be found here. Editors use their professional judgment when determining whether a given article meets the standards for excellent writing.

As more Allvoices writers reach Anchor status, more reports are being submitted to Select Media. It is the writer’s responsibility to check the accuracy of names, quotes and key facts in a given story. If editors have to spend time fixing such basics as the correct spelling of names and the accuracy of dates, then obviously the writing is not excellent. All tones, voices and perspectives are welcome (so long as they are civil and seek to engage rather than inflame), but the writing itself must be strong.

This includes headlines and extends to photo captions and any original art a writer might create to go with a given report. Although Allvoices’ cutting-edge image clustering system seeks to match available, licensed photos to every report, the system is occasionally unable to match a story with an image. In this case, an editor may attach an image, or the writer may be contacted to help find one. Error-free writing is particularly crucial in captions and images, as they will be among the first things readers see after the headline.

7. It must be original and unique to Allvoices, not available anywhere else online or in print. If it is, please do not mark it as "Select Media.”

If you are simultaneously publishing on a blog or another website, that’s great. But any content you submit to Select Media must be exclusive to Allvoices. You may excerpt a few paragraphs on other sites, link back to the Allvoices story and still receive Select Media approval, but exclusivity is one of Allvoices’ key strengths. The Select Media program is designed to keep it that way.

8. Strong potential level for community engagement.

When people comment on your reports, it’s usually because they agree, disagree or want to add something to the conversation. You are encouraged to reply to their comments, whether you agree or disagree. But again, please keep the conversation respectful and civil. Regardless of what some of the TV pundits would like you to believe, you can make your point without being a jerk about it.

If you have any questions about Select Media or its guidelines, don’t hesitate to contact Allvoices at selectmedia@allvoices.com

Additional information:

Complete set of links to all Allvoices Writers' Resources reports