Freelance Submissions

Informed Comment is happy to entertain article submissions and commentary. It is a good site at which to have one’s work seen and distributed. The website ranks highly for world affairs, politics, US politics and green energy at Technorati.com. Readership is hard to estimate because email forwarding and mirroring cannot easily be measured, but Google Analytics most often returns in the neighborhood of 20,000 page views daily, a fraction of the actual readership. The format allows postings to be seen for several days. The site is well read in policy circles and among foreign policy and area studies thinkers.

We are especially interested in reporters or academics based in the Middle East and South Asia, in reporters based in Washington D.C. with original information or interviews on US foreign policy, and in reporters or academics writing about religion, human rights and religious discrimination, and energy and climate change– with expertise in those subjects. Articles should be no more than 1000 words and should be based on independent reporting. Commentary should be original opinion on a burning issue of that day, make a single point, and be 800-1000 words. Submitters should provide a short resume indicating previous publications and qualifications. Payment can be discussed at the time of submission but typically is 10 cents a word for short pieces.

Suggestions for writers of opinion columns are here , with Part II being here and another good set of suggestions here . Academics will find the requirement that you are only allowed to make one central point the most onerous; no lists of three please.

Bloggers who would like to have a blog entry mirrored at Informed Comment are welcome to inquire, and would receive a link back and credit.

Please use the Contact Form for submissions.

Submissions should follow this Ethics Guide, which I have adapted from the Center for Investigative Reporting .

Ethics Guide

Journalists and employees at Informed Comment should uphold the highest standards of ethics, fairness and honesty. Integrity is the cornerstone of the organization. These guidelines and policies extend to contractors and freelancers submitting to IC.

Whenever you are faced with an ethical problem, we urge you to consult our guidelines, never assume anything and always use common sense. If you can’t find answers in our guidelines and you have any doubt about how to proceed, consult Juan Cole before taking action. Informed Comment follows guidelines outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists and its mission of “seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” Our content must be accurate, thorough, complete and fair – on all platforms.

ANONYMOUS SOURCES
Our journalists will refrain from quoting or attributing information to anonymous sources. The editorial director may approve rare exceptions to this rule if the information is deemed to be of high news value and importance – and if all other means to get the information on the record have been exhausted. But even before the use of an anonymous source reaches the editorial director, it should be thoroughly discussed as soon as is practical with an assigning editor.

When dealing with sources, always question motives before promising anonymity. Avoid using anonymous sources to express negative opinions or make negative charges about an individual or organization. In the rare cases in which anonymous sources are approved by the editorial director, we will tell readers or viewers why anonymity was granted in the story, accompanying sidebar or blog post. Identify to the fullest extent possible the nature of the source, including qualifications and biases that can aid the reader in determining the validity of the information.

You should consult first with your assigning editor before granting a blanket promise of confidentiality to any source.

The editor must be notified as to the identity of any anonymous or confidential sources. Sources, meanwhile, should be aware that their identity will be shared with a senior editor, who will also protect their confidentiality.

AGGREGATION
Journalists should take great care when aggregating stories from other news sources. Verbatim language must be in quotation marks and properly attributed and linked to the source. Longer excerpts must be set off in block quotes and linked to the source. Aggregated content should be short – a small percentage of the actual article. In most cases, that means no more than a single paragraph of excerpted material and an extremely limited amount of rewritten text. When paraphrasing aggregated material, attribution and linking to the original material is essential.

BYLINES

In general, the byline goes to the person or people who did significant work on the article. In most cases, a tagline mentions any contributor who does not appear in the byline. We must clearly credit all sources of photos, graphics, informational breakout text, and Web and TV “frame grabs.” For copyright reasons, submitted photos must be original and not from wire services and copyright permission must be granted to Informed Comment.

CONFERENCE TRAVEL/HONORARIA
If conference travel expenses or honoraria have been provided to the reporter, it must be acknowledged.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Reporters should not work on stories, projects or initiatives in which they have a personal connection, vested interest or financial interest. We ask that reporters exercise an abundance of caution in these matters. Even a perceived conflict could damage our credibility. This policy extends to the involvement and activities of a business partner, spouse or domestic partner. If a conflict exists or arises, you should disclose it immediately to the editor. Avoid secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity. Journalists should avoid investments in companies or industries they regularly cover. If your spouse or significant other is involved in activities that could raise potential conflicts, we would urge you not to write on matters that might affect your spouse or partner’s activities. This would include stories under development that might involve a spouse or partner, or their associates or business entities, as a potential news source.

CORRECTIONS
We are committed to correcting or clarifying any errors in a prompt and open manner. All errors in published material must be reported to a supervisor immediately. We encourage feedback from the public and take any requests for clarification or correction seriously. Your editors should be notified when these public concerns arise.

CREDITING OTHER MEDIA
Any information taken from other published or broadcast sources should receive credit within the body of the story. Reporters and editors also should be aware of previously published/broadcast work on the same subject and give those news organizations credit if they have broken new ground or published exclusive material before any others.

DATELINES
Datelines identify for readers of text articles where the main news event occurred. Be careful never to leave the impression on a bylined story that the reporter traveled somewhere when he or she did not. Further, if the place the action occurred is not significant to the overall story, then a dateline should not be used.

DONOR INTERACTION
We have no sacred cows. We will not shy away from stories that we deem newsworthy. In the name of transparency, when we produce stories that involve donors.

FAIRNESS
All sources will be treated with courtesy and respect in the newsgathering process. Reporters and freelanders will act professionally at all times in dealing with sources, even hostile and recalcitrant ones. Subjects of our stories should have many opportunities to respond to our findings and facts. Whenever practical, multiple attempts should be made to contact any sources named in our stories or cast in a negative light. Reporters and editors should determine what is appropriate in terms of notice and attempts to obtain comment or response. As a rule, multiple efforts should be made to reach main subjects in our stories – regardless of the format or platform.

HARM
As outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists, reporters should strive to minimize harm. Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects. Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief. Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance. Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy. Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

Do not identify juvenile suspects unless they have been charged as adults or unless you receive approval from a senior editor. We also will not identify victims of sex crimes without approval from a senior editor. Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges. Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Identification of a minor in any story published by Informed Comment should be cleared with the editor. In quoting minors, we should ensure that we have obtained parental consent or the consent of a legal guardian whenever possible – so that minor subjects are fully aware of the ramifications of speaking on the record in the media.

MEALS
Sometimes, a meal or refreshments are included with your admission to an event, and sometimes it would seem rude to refuse to eat with a group that has invited you to attend. It is not against our ethics to eat in these situations. You should make a good-faith effort to pay the proportionate cost of your meal, using common sense. In the case of source meetings over food or refreshments, we generally expect and encourage you to pay your own way. Again, common sense should guide you. For example, if you have a longtime source and it is your practice to alternate picking up the check at lunch, that’s fine. Allowing a source to buy you a cup of coffee is OK; an expensive dinner is not OK.

MISREPRESENTATION
Under no circumstances will assigned freelancers and contractors mislead sources, lie, cheat, steal or engage in any other immoral, unethical or illegal behavior in the pursuit of a story. We expect reporters and commenters to exercise sound judgment at all times. Identify yourselves upfront as journalists; do not use hidden cameras or microphones, go undercover or engage in any other news-gathering tactic that might be construed as misleading without first discussing the ramifications and consequences with the editor. (Please remember that in many jurisdictions the law does not allow conversations or interviews to be tape recorded — video or audio — without the subject’s consent. The rule generally does not apply in a public setting.) The editor must be informed of and sign off any unconventional reporting methods and approaches.

OFF THE RECORD
Off the record, background, deep background – it all might mean different things to different people. When engaging in off-the-record interviews, make sure to spell out clearly the ground rules so there is no misunderstanding about how information may be used.

PLAGIARISM
Under no circumstances will reporters or freelancers/contractors steal material from other sources. All outside work must be properly credited and clearly noted. This includes any material on the Internet. Plagiarism is a serious offense, and violators will be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

While you are gathering information, make sure to carefully note your sources, and if you copy something verbatim into your story, make sure to put it in quotation marks and properly attribute the source. If you paraphrase, even as you rewrite it into your own voice, lean toward attribution. Don’t copy or cut and paste information, including text, pictures and graphics, from websites and press releases into your report. Take care when using information from our archives.

Fabrication – to invent details, people and stories – also violates all of our principles. Readers must be confident that we are not making up anything. Fabrication is a serious offense, and violators will be subject to discipline up to and including termination. This policy also bans the use of “composite” characters, or creating details that we did not observe or verify from a source who was in a position to know. In those special cases in which we are reconstructing events or writing special narratives, have conversations about the proper way to let readers know how we know what we wrote is accurate. This will require an explanatory note identifying our sources and perhaps attributing specific pieces of information to specific sources, akin to footnoting.

PROFANITY AND SLURS
We will refrain from using profanity or slurs in quoted material in our stories. The editor may approve rare exceptions to this rule if the use is deemed to be of high news value and relevance to the story. However, it is generally better to paraphrase the material to avoid using offensive language. Before the use of profanity or a slur reaches the editorial director, it should be thoroughly discussed with an assigning editor.

RETRACTION DEMANDS
We take all challenges to the integrity of our news reports seriously. If reporters or producers become aware of disputed facts before publication the editor must be notified. Challenges to published or broadcasted facts should be brought to the attention of the editor immediately.

Informed Comment accepts no legal responsibility for incorrect allegations in a freelance submission, which rests with the submitting author. Where firm evidence of an incorrect assertion is provided, a retraction will be immediately posted, which will suffice as repair to any damage caused.

TRANSPARENCY
We never overreach in our storytelling. When appropriate, we should not hesitate to disclose what we don’t know about a specific story we’re reporting. When facing difficult choices, we will attempt to make our decision-making process clear to the public. We disclose any relationships with partners or funders that might appear to influence our coverage. Whenever practical, we will strive to explain to readers and our audience the process of building our stories and provide raw data and documentation for public consumption.

UNDERCOVER WORK
Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information, except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story. A supervisor and our legal counsel must be consulted and grant approval before engaging in any undercover work.

VERIFICATION
Our credibility is built on honest, accurate, fair and thorough journalism. We take great care to verify our work. Reporters are responsible for confirming all facts and for footnoting their stories. The editor will do due diligence with regard to fact checking.

Formal political appointments or affiliations must be disclosed at time of submission.

Reporters and assigned freelancers and contractors do not pay for information from sources under any circumstances.

Don’t ambush interviewees. Make sure they know what they are getting into.

One response

  1. I wish to thank you for your steady and significant analytic contributions to Iranian affairs and U. S. policy in the Middle East. My students often refer to your website as a reliable and revealing source of information and commentary.

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