Freelance submission guidelines

The Arkansas Advocate invites independent journalists to pitch their ideas to us. Whether you have decades of journalism experience or next to none, we require only a passion for truth and a commitment to ethical reporting.

Some guidelines: 

Pitching: We seek ideas that are fresh and fulfill our mission to influence the conversation in Arkansas with groundbreaking reporting on issues of importance to Arkansans, especially under-covered and under-represented communities. We like scoops and pieces that allow for storytelling, interesting characters, colorful scenes. We also love data. If you’re pitching, please be fluent with the subject, especially whether other local media have already covered the issue.

Images: Every pitch should include a plan for art. Photography, graphics and other art are an important part of any story. If we accept your pitch, you should be thinking about images, preferably photos,  every step of the way. When taking photos, the first rule: Get close. The most common mistake made by less skilled photographers is not getting close enough to the subject. We will pay an additional $25 for each photo we run. If taking your own photos isn’t possible, help us figure out how to obtain images from the story subject. In some circumstances, we are willing to hire a freelance photographer. The point is, always be thinking about how much better your piece will look with great photos. 

Editing: The Advocate has high standards of reporting and writing. Most great writing you’ve ever read has been edited. Sometimes heavily. Do not take offense at editing. The best reporting and writing is collaborative, from conversations about sourcing and interview questions all the way to how to frame and tell a story and write a powerful opening sentence. That said, we do not want you to feel trampled by the process. If you feel you’ve lost your voice, feel free to push back and seek to make changes. This is a dialogue. 

Professionalism: When you are on assignment for the Advocate, you are representing us. Begin by reading our ethics policy, here. Let us know in writing that you’ve read it. 

Some of this will seem insultingly obvious but best to be clear about expectations:

  • Please be courteous and respectful, even in an adversarial interview. 
  • Never misrepresent yourself.
  • Although we place a high value on whistleblowers, we do not want you engaging in criminal or unethical activity to get a story. 
  • If you feel your rights are being violated with respect to the First Amendment, open meeting or open records laws, let us know. 
  • If you feel you will need to offer anonymity to a source, consult with us before doing so. Do not assume we will run reporting with anonymous sources. 
  • If you make an agreement with a source that a conversation is off-the-record or on background, live up to that agreement. 
  • Do not accept gifts. 
  • Respect proper boundaries with sources. 
  • Properly attribute information. 
  • We keep news and opinion separate and expect our writers to respect that line when they are working on pieces for the Advocate. 

Social media: It’s a free country, and we’re not policing anyone’s social media. But we have to protect the Advocate’s reputation as a fair-minded newsgathering operation. If we feel associating with a flamboyant social media presence could harm that reputation, we will be less likely to accept your pitches. 

Rates: The Advocate reserves the right to offer whatever we feel is appropriate given the quality of the pitch and experience/talent of the writer, but in the vast majority of cases, to preserve fairness and equity, these are our rates: 

  • Short: $250. Usually either a quick scoop or news story, a day’s work. 750-1,000 words. (Word count is not always a good indicator of how much time a story requires or how much pay is deserved.)
  • Moderate enterprise: $500. Multiple sources and a scene if the story allows. 1,000-1,500 words.
  • Major Enterprise: $750. Multiple sources and typically investigative or explanatory in nature. Up to 2,000 words.
  • Writers who do photography will be compensated for the photos: $25 for each photo; usually three will be enough, but that entails taking more and coming away with three good ones.

Finally, we’re here to help. If you find yourself in a jam, not sure what direction the reporting needs to go, facing writer’s block, anything, reach out. We’ll do our best to help. We hope to help Arkansas’ independent journalists as best we can.

Thank you,

Sonny Albarado, Editor-in-Chief

[email protected]

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