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NEIGHBORHOOD NEWSLETTER

Writing Guidelines for "URBAN TIMES"

All news reports which appear in Urban Times will be re-written to conform to “standard journalistic standards,” according to the Memorandum of Understanding existing between Brooks Publications and the member neighborhoods.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you provide us information in the best possible format. Information sent to us will be modified to fit these guidelines – so do not let these rules interfere with your timely submissions of neighborhood news.

Also, we will add to these guidelines as the occasion warrants.

Note: These guidelines apply to all reports EXCEPT the “president’s message.” Because it is a by-lined report, different rules apply. Those differences are listed below.

  • Stories are written in third person. Therefore, avoid using constructions such as “You are invited to….” The proper technique is to write “Neighbors are invited to….” or “Everyone is invited to….”
  • All qualitative statements must be attributed to someone. Statements such as “This is surely guaranteed to be our best event ever….” or “Without volunteers stepping up to help, the neighborhood will lose its …..” must be followed by a source, such as “… said Sandy Neighbor, chairman of the whatever committee.”
  • We require first AND last names for all people listed in stories – and shown in photographs. This includes teachers, so a report referring to “Mr. Smith” will force us to call the school to get a first name.
  • We understand that, for many people, safety and security is an issue. Therefore, we recommend that house addresses not be used if it is not essential to the story. It would be better to say “Chris Neighbor of the 800 block of Something Street…” Of course, this is not applicable if the home is the site of a meeting you want people to attend, or for stories about IHPC approvals or zoning changes.
  • For photographs, our guidelines are that all people shown in posed photographs should be identified (front to back, left to right). People featured prominently in candid photos (such as “action photos” during neighborhood clean-ups) should be identified if at all possible. Obviously, that is not possible in every instance.
  • Urban Times makes every effort to publish all materials submitted by neighborhoods each month, but reserves the right to set aside stories which do not fall within the scope of usual neighborhood news. For example, if a neighborhood submits a story about the city’s new leaf collection policy, that story would be used in the general pages of the newsletter, because it would affect all readers, and to ensure maximum readership. Urban Times also reserves the right to not publish other submitted stories which fall clearly outside the definition of “neighborhood news.”
  • Urban Times accepts well-written stories from independent authors – as long as those stories do not violate any conflict-of-interest standards.

For President’s Message

  • Because this feature is a by-lined “column,” much more latitude is given in the area of qualitative statements. In fact, making such statements should be the main emphasis of the features. This is the neighborhood soapbox.
  • The President’s Message should be restricted to one subject – two at the most. Please remember that readers judge the worth of every story on the basis of the headline and the first paragraph (or “lead”). Therefore, if you start talking about parking issues, then move on to other worthy subjects such as volunteerism or land use problems, chances are good that readers who don’t care about parking issues won’t get that far into your essay.
  • In the same vein, The President’s Message should not be used as a catch-up “round-up” of everything that went on in the neighborhood last month. Not only does good information get “buried” deep in the story – but packaging it into one story makes it very difficult for me to make a true neighborhood page each month.

News About Local Business

In any and all reports from local businesses, several rules must be observed. because of the line that exists between “news” and “advertising.” Here are a few guidelines:

  • Urban Times publishes stories about new businesses, as well as significant changes in operation of existing businesses. For example: If a lunch restaurant begins serving dinner, or perhaps a store begins opening on Sundays. We will also publish changes in personnel.
  • Urban Times DOES NOT publish news about sales or prices of any product. We also do not publish product lines. For example, we would never publish that “Acme Department Store has added Coca-Cola to its shelves, or “Barefoot Shoe Store now sells Birkenstocks.”
  • We do allow, of course, for listings thanking businesses for donations or support of neighborhood activities, as well as mentioning them as locations for community events.

Additionally, Urban Times has a formal business section each month. Any stories about new businesses or changes in business practices will be separated from neighborhood news and published in the business section. This is done to guarantee the business the widest possible exposure for the story.


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