Blogging Students: how to pitch an idea and get it accepted
Editor’s blog: Make sure you have something fresh to say that will grab the attention of lots of other students. And pick the best format for getting your point across
Writing for Blogging Students can be a pretty exciting experience. You get your own contributor page on the Guardian site. You learn how we edit a blog to maximise its impact.
And best of all, you get exposure to potentially huge amounts of traffic – our biggest blog this year has had half a million page views, more than 900 comments, and gone viral on social media. It’s a powerful way to make a name for yourself online.
Thus far, all our blogs have been written. But we’d like to broaden our range to include video or audio blogs (no music, or we run into copyright issues), cartoon strips and photojournalism – so if you’d like to experiment with a different format, please do.
Read other people’s blogs
Don’t just fire off an email to us with a half-formed idea. It’s not going to get you anywhere – we get dozens of suggestions every week and only the best are considered for publication. So begin by reading and analysing the blogs we have already published.
You could start with the chart-topper, What happened when I started a feminist society at school, to see why it was so successful.
It’s topic is feminism, which has been written about endlessly. So how has the writer, Jinan Younis, managed to make it so compelling?
Look at the intro. Specific, personal, to the point. There’s a narrative that draws you straight in – here’s what happened to me. And then, like a horror story unfolding, things begin to turn very ugly.
Younis uses a range of techniques to keep the reader glued to the page – see if you can work out what they are.
Have a look at several more blogs – you’ll soon see that there’s a wide range of styles and strategies that can work to involve and stimulate the reader.
You’ll also notice that these blogs are not like people’s personal blogs. They are each focused on a specific area of student life. Some concern themselves with academic issues – revision, plagiarism – some with health issues – drugs, depression, illness – some with political issues – student unions, tuition fees – some with lifestyle – clubbing, accommodation, music. But each has a case to make and a clear focus for discussion.
Send us a pitch
Once you’ve decided what you’re keen to blog about, pitch your idea to Blogging.Students@theguardian.com.
Try to find a subject that has not been written about over and over again – or have something really fresh and surprising to say about an old theme. The best topics tend to be small and specific rather than huge and wide-ranging. For example, don’t pitch “The state of higher education”, do pitch “Most of my course is being taught by other students”.
It’s not enough simply to have a topic, you need to have a point to make about that topic, so explain what your argument will be. Tell us who you plan to quote in your piece – it’s good to have a variety of voices with different points of view. What news reports, statistics, surveys or blogs are you going to link to to give your piece some context?
If we like your idea – and if no one else has pitched the same thing – then we’ll discuss your pitch with you, make further suggestions as to how you can develop it, and ask you to go ahead and put your piece together.
The shape and size of it
Written blogs should be 500-600 words long, cartoons no more than eight frames done in the shape of a Guardian article (long not wide). As for photojournalism, we’d probably want to discuss that on a case-by-case basis.
Videos should be no longer than two minutes. We accept .avi, .mov, .wmv, .flv and MPEG4 files. And while we’re on video, here are a few more rules: don’t include music (unless you’ve written and performed it yourself and hold all the rights ito the material); don’t include children (under 16s) unless you have permission from their parent; and credit anyone who has helped you make the film.
How to blog for Blogging Students
Most of the following instructions will apply to written blogs, but the principles apply to all formats.
• Adopt a conversational, chatty style. Avoid cliches, jargon, academic language and acronyms.
• Put some serious work into your intro – is it intriguing, engaging and different?
• Always use specific examples, perhaps based on personal experience. Don’t generalise or waffle on about challenges and passion.
• Use common nouns as much as you can: “boots” and “apples” are much more evocative words than “footwear” and “produce”.
• Try to find recent research or media coverage about your topic, and link to it in your blog.
• Check your facts. These pieces are going on the Guardian site so they need to be factually accurate. There’s no point in having a guess at say, the number of students who drop out in first year. You need to have an up-to-date statistic, and a link to show where you found it.
• You can’t break the law. You can’t make unsubstantiated libellous claims against people. You can’t change a quote to make it say what you want it to say. And if someone has said something they may later deny having said, it’s good if you have it on tape, or written down in your notebook word for word. Don’t throw your records away.
• Avoid standing on a soap-box and banging on about something. Quoting a variety of people will help to bring other voices into your piece.
• Read what you’ve written aloud when you’re finished. Is that how you talk?
• The reader should emerge clear about what you’re saying, what other people have said on the subject, and what they are being asked to comment on.
Don’t be taken aback by the fact that the final version of your piece may be quite different from what you submitted. Everything that is written for the news media is edited, sometimes quite heavily, to make the writing punchier, to cut repetition, and to accord with the style and tone of the publication.
If what you produce is suitable for publication, we will ask you for a headshot and a one-sentence bio for your contributor page. This can contain links to your own blog or twitter feed.
Who is eligible to blog for Blogging Students?
• You need to be a member of Guardian Students to be eligible to blog. To become a member, go to this sign up page and fill in the form. We’ll be happy to welcome you into the fold, and your membership will also bring you a weekly newsletter and a free ebook.
• You have to be a current student for us to consider your blog (the series is called Blogging Students, after all). You might be in sixth form, or studying at an FE college, doing an apprenticeship or attending university, either as an undergraduate or as a postgraduate student. There is no age restriction: we want Blogging Students to reflect the full range of student life in the UK and, indeed, much further afield.
We’ve uncovered some brilliant writing talent since we launched this blog in 2012. We’re keen to hear from every kind of student – from science to law, business to art, journalism to medicine – about the issues that affect their lives.
So if you’ve got something to get off your chest, write to: Blogging.Students@theguardian.com. We look forward to hearing from you.