Independent journalists have already made substantial contributions to the Reformer, and we consider them a vital part of the Reformer community. We publish people with decades of experience in journalism and people with next to none. The only requirements are a passion for truth and commitment to the ethical gathering of facts.
Here are some guidelines:
Pitching: We are looking for ideas that are fresh and fulfill our mission to influence the conversation in Minnesota with groundbreaking reporting on issues like income inequality, racial justice, educational disparities, environmental degradation. We like scoops and pieces that allow for storytelling, interesting characters, colorful scenes. OTOH: We also love data. If you’re pitching, please be fluent with the subject, e.g., whether the story has already appeared in other local media.
Images: Every pitch should include a plan for art. Photography, graphics and other art are an important part of the story. If we’ve accepted 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 certain 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 Reformer 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 lede. 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 Reformer, you are representing us.
Begin by reading our ethics policy, here. Please 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. Do not misrepresent yourself. Although we place a high value on whistleblowers, we do not want you engaging in criminal or unethical activity to obtain reporting. If you feel your rights are being violated with respect to the First Amendment, open meeting or open records laws, please let us know. If you feel you will need to offer anonymity to a source, you should 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 Reformer pieces.
Social media: It’s a free country, and we’re not policing anyone’s social media. But we have to protect the Reformer’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: We will have standard rates; the Reformer 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 the rates:
Shorty: $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 the Minnesota community of independent journalists as best we can.
Thanks for your time.