Now that you have joined the Tellus Community, you’re ready to start writing, right?
Wrong. There’s a learning curve but, don’t worry, we’re going to guide you through it. Let’s get started.
As a new Tellus Member, you are in training to become a Tellus contributor. Consider this your Tellus Boot Camp Experience, your basic training in journalism….but this isn’t just about journalism. It is also about being about to write convincing, well-documented, inspirational, moving editorial copy.
We are NOT teaching you to be reporters. Jobs for reporters are very scarce, and they are getting scarcer all the time, but there are a lot of other jobs that require good reading and writing skills. The ability to write clearly is a key that can open a great many doors.
Right now, as we said, you are at the beginning of a learning curve….but there is no end to that learning curve. Of course, you already know how to read and write, and operate a computer, but we are going to teach you to read like a writer, and write like a reader.
That is a very important concept. Good writing is all about reading other writers like a writer, learning, borrowing and stealing every bit of knowledge you can get from reading other writers. Steal the knowledge, not the writing. Stealing other people’s material, copying what they wrote and passing it off as your own, is called plagiarism and it is illegal. Don’t do it. (We will talk more about this later.)
These guidelines are just the beginning of what you need to learn. These are the training wheels you need in order to get started.
- Do NOT write stories directly into the Tellus Text Editor. Write your stories in a word processing program and then copy and paste them into the Tellus Text Editor. (If you don’t have a word processing program, we recommend that you use Apache Open Office, which is free, easy to use, and available even when you are not online. The second choice is Google Docs, but Google Docs has some drawbacks we will discuss later.)
- Before you copy and paste an article into the Tellus Text Editor, run the spell checker utility to clean up your copy.
- Always keep a copy of the articles you submit to Tellus for future reference. This is important because you may have to compare your original to final version after editing.
- Do not add any formatting to your copy until after the article is in the Tellus Editor. When you transfer your article into the Tellus Editor, it may wipe out all of your formatting. This includes underlining, italics, bold text, font changes, color changes, or hyperlinks because the formatting will be removed when you import the file. These can be added later once the articles are in the Tellus Editor. (We will get into this in detail later.)
- Articles must be at least 600 words in length and should not be more than 2,000 words, unless previously approved by an editor. Two 1,000 word articles have a greater impact than one 2,000 article in terms of attracting traffic to the website and building your audience. Readers tend to get annoyed when you go over 1,000 words. (This article, for example, is 1,276 words long.)
- News articles should be written from the third person, primarily in the present perfect tense EXCEPT for “first person” stories in which the author is involved in the story. This is common in interviews and reviews. ONLY acceptable for “first person” stories in which the author is involved in the story, for interview articles and reviews.
- All NEWS stories must be properly sourced with a minimum of two sources for each major fact in your story. Entertainment stories, interviews, and reviews only require one source per fact. Sources must be specified within the text of the article using hyperlinks.
AVOID THE SIX BIG NO-NOS: Plagiarism, Pornography, Obscenity or Profanity, Libel, Slander, or Defamation of character, because any of these six big mistakes will get you fired.
- Plagiarism constitutes the deliberate use of another person’s copyrighted words in your document without attribution. You have a perfect right to quote from any copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the copyright owner in the course of writing a news article, a review, a scholarly paper, or any other project in which the opinions of the person being quoted are significant…but you must give credit where credit is due by putting quotation marks around the quote and citing author, the publication, or both. We have software that checks for plagiarism. If we find that more than 10% of an article was copied, you will be warned. Three strikes and you’re out.
- Pornography is not just about images. There is also such a thing as pornographic writing, salacious and unnecessary descriptions of sexual acts. Since we don’t publish fiction, this should never come up. However, discussions about pornography are acceptable as long as the decorum of good taste is maintained. (Refer to the section on images for more information on pornographic content.)
- Obscenity or Profanity is anything you wouldn’t say in front of your grandmother or a six year-old child. The only exception to this is if you are quoting something that someone else said, in which case it is all right – as long as the words are in quotes.
- Libel is a false and defamatory statement made in a published article.
The problem with libel is that the burden of proof is on us. We have to prove that the statement was true. The interesting thing about libel is that defending ourselves against libel could cost us a fortune and wreck this enterprise, so make sure you have your facts straight. |
- Slander is verbal, whereas libel is written. However, the spoken word is now recorded so many times and in so many places that it is quite possible for someone to run afoul of slander laws in the process of discussing an article in which no libel was present. If someone you do not know well wants to engage you in a verbal conversation about an article, defer those inquiries to us because they could be setting you up. (With libel and slander, it pays to be paranoid.)
- Defamation of Character is the precise term for statements made to deliberately hold another person up to shame, ridicule or embarrassment. This is also a gray area: it is possible to make a factual statement that nevertheless constitutes defamation of character. Satirists often run afoul of this fine distinction. It is difficult to prove, because it requires documentation of the perpetrator’s intent to do harm, but that means it is also difficult to defend against.
Personal Behavior and Comportment
- Professional Courtesy is simply treating people the way you want to be treated and that means being civil. No cursing at one another, no excessive profanity, no hate speech of any kind will be tolerated. If you have a problem with another Tellus member, bring it to us. That’s what we are here for.
- Do not ask for money. Do not give money to anyone. Report anyone who asks you for money regardless of the reason.
- Do not attempt to meet anyone you encounter while working at Tellus. Do not accept any invitations to meet with anyone through Tellus. Remember, we are under a microscope and there’s no telling who that person might really be.
- Any attempt to conduct any illicit activities through Tellus will be reported to the appropriate authorities.