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Worker Correspondents are the eyes and ears of the progressive movement. Almost everyone learns things that are needed for the great information base that guides our strategies and tactics. Almost everyone can, and should, contribute to the publications of the Communist Party USA. Texas has a good bunch of volunteers, but more are needed. For those who feel some need for instruction, we've been preparing presentations on our school. Experimental School is free. Just sign in.
We also obtained some new and old information from our professional editors. Here it is:
The idea of being a writer can be a bit scary, and frequently our readers say they "can't write," or "I don't have anything to write about."
But almost everyone has something to say and write about. It doesn't have to be an earthshaking event.
If you're a worker, write about your union, unity or disunity in the face of racism, sexism, etc. Tell us about strikes, contracts, safety issues, and other things that concern your co-workers.
If you are active in a community, student or political group, tell us about the issues. Anything concerning the fight for jobs, peace, civil liberties, equality, health care, seniors' rights. In other words, write about anything that is important to you or those around you, and which may be of interest to people in other places.
Maybe you've seen a movie, listened to a CD, or read a book that you want to say something about. Fine. We want to hear about it. The main thing is: don't censor yourself.
So here's a little guide about writing for our paper. It consists of four parts: (1) How to write for the People's Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo (2) a sample news story, (3) "Things to remember in news writing," by Art Shields, one of our most outstanding reporters of years past, and (4) additional resources.
1. How to write for the People's Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo
What to write about? The PWW/NM wants all kinds of articles, but especially about:
- Labor, strikes, labor unity, rank and file
- The fight against racism; for Black-white-Brown unity
- The fight for peace
- The fight for independent political action
- Communist Party and YCL activities
- Youth and student actions
- Women's rights actions
- The fight for education, lower tuition, immigrant rights, Social Security, Medicare, good housing, health care, etc.
- The fight to protect the environment
- Culture: music, TV programs, movies, books
How to write - a few tips
Take good notes, interview people and get direct quotes, get all relevant facts and get them accurately. Be especially careful to get the first and last names of people spelled correctly; get correct titles and exact dates. In labor stories, get the complete name of the union (not just initials), and the number of the union local.
Write down what happened as if you were talking to a friend. Keep the story simple, clear and accurate.
The opening paragraph should be dramatic, up-to-date and to the point. Newspaper
style is to start with the latest development first (or the next development
For instance, don't start off by saying: "The strike stared six months ago when the company refused to bargain." Start by saying, "Five persons were injured yesterday when police attacked the picket line at Widget Manufacturing Company here. The strike started six months ago…."
Or, "Five pickets arrested here last month will go on trial tomorrow…."
Then go on to give all background and explanatory information. Don't put the most important information in the last paragraph. It might get cut when the paper is being laid out.
The five W's of journalism. These are Who, What, When, Where, Why. All of them
don't have to be in the first sentence, but they should be in the first or second
For instance, in the sample story attached below, you'll find the following:
Who: 500 unionists
What: Picketed Dow Chemical
When: Jan. 17
Where: Midland, Mich.
Why: To protest police attack
Type stories into a computer if you have access to one. Once you have finished and saved it as a file, you have several options.
If you have e-mail, address a message to us (email@example.com) and send it in. You can either copy and paste the text of your story into an e-mail message, or if you've saved your story and given it a file name, attach your file to the e-mail message and send us the attachment. Either method is fine. If you send us an attachment, our preferred format is Microsoft Word.
If you don't have a computer, use a typewriter. If you don't have a typewriter, hand-written stories are acceptable. Mail them to our editorial offices at People's Weekly World, 3339 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60608, or fax them to us at 773-446-9928.
Headline. Give your story a clear, crisp headline of no more than 40 characters, if possible.
Dateline. If you're covering a local story, give a dateline like this:
"PITTSBURGH - Five persons were injured today as police charged a picket line…."
Byline: If you want your name as the author of the article, please put "By <your name>" near the top of your story. You can use a pen name if you prefer.
Spell out names of organizations the first time: International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Later in the story, use IBT.
Be careful with court stories. Give the full title of the court and the judge. Tell what happened in accurate terms as clearly as you can: The group filed a brief in the 2nd District Court; sued for an injunction; etc.
Deadlines and word lengths. Both of these are crucial for a newspaper. They vary depending on the kind of subject matter or story.
If you are writing a story about a local action, for example, send it in to our offices by Friday by 12 noon central time. Keep the story to within 250 to 500 words. If it gets in by Friday noon, we should be able to run in the following week's edition.
Stories about major national news generally run 300-700 words, and should be sent in to our offices by Monday morning at 9 a.m.
If you are writing more of a feature story, or news analysis piece (750 words)
or an opinion piece (op-ed, 700-800 words), get it to us by Thursday at noon.
The Thursday noon deadline applies for articles on culture, health, and economics,
2. Here's a sample story sent in by e-mail:
Subject line of e-mail message: Story on Dow picketing
Pickets protest police violence at Dow
By John Reed
MIDLAND, Mich. - Some 500 persons marched outside the main gate of the Dow Chemical plant here this morning to protest an unprovoked police attack on pickets last week.
The militant, chanting protesters included members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 123, which struck Dow three weeks ago, and fellow unionists from locals of the United Auto Workers, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and several construction unions.
The police attack on Tuesday, Jan. 12, on a small, token picket line left four men injured. All 10 pickets were arrested, eight men and two women. They were arraigned in Midland Criminal Court before Judge William Clinton. Trial was set for Feb. 14.
The attack came when the police tried to force the pickets away from the gate, it was reported. The pickets insisted that they had a right to demonstrate on city streets and stood their ground. The police then waded into the group, swinging their clubs and using gun butts in the wild attack.
Although the plant gate is on an isolated street surrounded by Dow buildings and lots, the attack was photographed by reporters for local television and the Midland Daily News. The union has filed charges of police brutality.
The Midland Central Labor Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday night after the attack and set plans for today's picket line, the largest in years in this Dow-dominated company town.
Local 123's demands in the strike include a 35-hour workweek with no cut in pay, increased hiring and promotion of Black and other minority workers, and a 50-cent an hour pay increase.
Bargaining began last September on the contract which expired Dec. 30. The local continued to bargain beyond the contract expiration but finally called the walkout when it was clear that the company was not bargaining seriously.
William Z. Foster, president of Local 123, said on the picket line today that his members were determined to win their fight despite the attack. Foster, a heavy-set graying man, pointed to the beefed-up picket line. "Our fellow workers in Midland are with us," he said.
As he spoke, the pickets chanted, "To hell with Dow, we won't bow!" and "We will not be moved - from Dow's front gate!" The picket line was diverse - Black, white and Latino - with roughly equal numbers of men and women. About 100 police stood by but did not bother the pickets this time.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a Dow worker, told this report that she fears layoffs because of increased automation.
"That's why we need the 35-hour week," she said. She mentioned Dow's new computer-controlled plastic-rolling machines.
"One worker can operate four machines, instead of two workers on each machine like we have now," she said.
She pulled her knitted hood tighter around her red hair and asked, "Where does that leave people lie me? I have three young kids and my pay barely supports us. If I get laid off, there's nothing much else in this town."
Ferdinand Smith, president of the Midland Central Labor Council, was also on the picket line. He spoke proudly of the 500 people who had braved the 2-degree cold. He said that the mass picketing would continue every Tuesday until Dow "begins to take this bargaining seriously."
Talks between Local 123 and the company are expected to resume next week.
3. From our archives: "Things to remember in news writing"
By Art Shields
Always remember that the People's Weekly World is a fighting paper. It is the voice of the oppressed. It is a weapon of the working class, the Black liberation movement, the Puerto Rican people. It represents the Communist Party. And it is dedicated to the cause of world Socialism.
Think of the readers as you write. Let their faces flash before your eyes as you hit the keys on your keyboard. Always ask yourself if your words are clear to this worker and that youth - Black, Brown and white - whom you know.
Our readers are the salt of the earth. Keep close to them at all times.
Clarity is a must for a PWW writer. Every story must be perfectly clear to the workers you are writing about - and to all other readers.
Suppose, for example, you are writing a series of stories on the miners in West Virginia. One story shows the relation between the bosses' speed-up system and the rising rate of accidents. A rock fall killed two miners because the timbering was too hastily done.
In describing the accident you must be technically precise. The miners will not tolerate any mistakes, and we will want to distribute this issue of the PWW among them. But the description must also be perfectly clear to readers in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, who know little about mining. Our aim is to make every article in the PWW interesting - and clear - to every reader.
This rule applies to all stories.
Clarity requires careful coverage of facts. In the accident story I would ask a coal digger to draw a rough diagram of the disaster. Miners have done that for me, and some have done it well. When the picture is sharp in your mind you can transfer it to words on paper. And remember this: We must always put our facts into word pictures - preferably word motion pictures. Then we can compete with television.
In this connection it's well to keep a clipping file on subjects you cover. I found one comrade's file very helpful when I did a story in New Haven on the Black Panther Party trial. The file included many pieces from the People's Weekly World, the New Haven papers, and the New York Times.
Clarity in political stories depends on the clarity of one's political thinking. This requires knowledge of the political subject one is writing about, and knowledge of Party policy. And knowledge of policy comes from one's political experience, and from careful reading of the People's Weekly World and other Party literature and the Marxist-Leninist classics.
This must be supplemented with a study of Party history, labor history, and the history of the African American people, the Mexican American people, and so on.
A reporter with this background will know what to emphasize when he or she covers a political meeting or interviews a political leader.
In writing political stories, try to avoid words that sound foreign and are strange to average readers. Remember: almost any political idea can be expressed in simple English. Gus Hall and Henry Winston understood this well.
The most colorful word pictures are painted in simple English. This is demonstrated by Emily Dickinson and all the great poets.
Avoid use of slang unless you are quoting someone. Then explain the slang if you think most readers will not understand it. Few slang words survive long and most are obscure to many readers. And remember that everyone can understand simple English.
Simple declarative sentences. Newspaper clarity is best one with simple declarative sentences. Long, complicated sentences are roadblocks. They stop many readers in the midst of a story. And long, complicated leads often stop readers at the beginning.
Short sentences. Short sentences are easy to follow. In my own writing I seldom
average more than 12 to 13 words a sentence when I am reporting action or describing
people. Sentences tend to run longer in political writing. But the copy becomes
simpler in the rewriting.
In news writing sentences should move quickly from start to finish. Bypaths should be avoided as much as possible. the most common bypaths are "who" and "which" clauses. Often they cannot be avoided, but it must be remembered that they slow up sentences. And the explanations given in "who" and "which" clauses can usually be given more effectively in follow-up sentences.
4. Additional resources
If you would like to pursue this subject further, here are some additional recommended resources:
"Volunteer writing for the People's Daily World," a 9-page guide written by Conn Hallinan in the mid-1980s. Covers different types of lead sentences, how to cover meetings and demonstrations, and how to do an interview, among other things. Kindly mail us $2 to cover photocopy and mailing charges and we'll send you a copy.
"Newswriting from Lead to 30," by William Metz. This is an excellent, practical textbook on newswriting that is available in many public and college libraries. You can often find used copies via the internet. Chapters include "The All-Important Lead," "Quotes and Attribution," "Covering Speeches," "Interviewing," "Covering meetings," "Deaths make News," and "Press Conferences."
"Writing and Reporting News," by Carole Rich. A more comprehensive textbook on newswriting for the serious student of journalism.
Photograph your subjects from different angles when possible, taking vertical shots from the left, the right and the front. Don't rule out taking some from the back. The photographer has no way of knowing if the page layout will call for a vertical or horizontal photo, so take a variety of shots.
Don't restrict picture-taking to crowd shots. Sometimes we become repetitive in our approach. When workers are on strike we take many photos of the picket line, trying to get it all in. When photographing a strike, there are many possibilities. What about a close-up of parents and a kid on the line, or a picture and a quote from someone who refuses to cross the picket line? Or union members preparing signs or passing them out to other members, talking with one another, etc.? Or a passing car showing their support?
During the Greyhound strike we received a picture that had only two strikers in it. It mainly featured the closed ticket counter and some very frustrated managers. The photo was different and effective.
A problem with many otherwise good photos is that they are taken from too far back. A picture that shows several participants in a demonstration close up will often have more impact than one taken from further back with everyone in view.
It is generally easier to get a good photo of an individual if that subject is talking with someone. A good location for the photographer is behind and to the side of the person the subject is talking with. A photo taken from a few feet back showing the subject doing something that relates to the story may also be effective.
We need more photographs showing good racial composition.
Photograph signs in Spanish as well as English.
While taking crowd shots, include banners and signs identifying organizations. This have a magnifying effect on the size of the crowd.
It is important to relate to the subject "through the lens." Be sure to check the entire viewfinder carefully because it is very easy to overlook distracting items when focusing on the main point of interest.
We can receive digital photos by e-mail, processed photos or even unprocessed rolls of film (send them by Express Mail if your story is urgent, as it usually is).
If the photos are digital, have your camera settings set on "fine" and "large." Aim for an average JPEG file size of 1MB or more.
In addition to reporting the news to the progressive community, the worker correspondent has other opportunities to reach out to this same community.
The People's Weekly World is so refreshing to progressives because it covers items of interest to progressives, unlike most of the mainstream media. It reports positive stories about working people, labor struggles, struggles for peace and international developments.
After a worker correspondent covers a particular event, she can make the article available to people or organizations involved in the event. This serves several purposes. One is that it provides people with more information about the event so that they can educate others and prepare for future events. It also makes the paper known to progressives so that they know the PWW is their ally in a particular struggle. The latter will hopefully lead to increased readership and subscribers.
The worker correspondent can also read the paper with an eye to other articles that could be useful to people in their community. Individual links to articles can be easily e-mailed to relevant progressives. Articles can also be easily printed off the website or copied directly from the paper and can be mailed to or given directly to people. For a small printing cost, a relevant article can be mass produced and handed out at progressive events as well.
I have done all of the above and gotten many notes of thanks from people in the community. Recently I took a number of copies of the PWW that had a favorable article about a local labor struggle to the union office for distribution to the union staff. A recent PWW had a favorable article about a charitable program of Citgo and I took them to several service stations and gave copies to the attendants. They were very pleased to receive these articles.
I have dropped off copies of the PWW to organizations such as NAACP when an article appears which is favorable to that organization. When an article appears which is of interest to the African-American community, I make sure to drop off copies to a predominantly African-American University.
Another thing I learned at a workshop at the CPUSA convention this past summer is that it is acceptable to paraphrase editorials or opinion pieces from the paper and send them to local newspapers as a letter to the editor. This helps get our ideas out there for people to think about and discuss. It isn't necessary to give credit to the paper in these letters.
In sum, use your creativity to get the word out about the paper and progressive
struggles. This activity can only help build our paper and our party and support
grass-roots organization. Don't expect immediate pay off. It may take months
or years before people respond. However, we can be sure that people will never
contact us if they don't know we exist and don't know anything about our positions.
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