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GUIDELINES FOR THE BEACON
1. There are two ways to get your articles, photographs and illustrations into the Black Rock Beacon:
1. There are two ways to get your articles, photographs and illustrations into the Black Rock Beacon: You can ask the editors for assignments or you can submit something you have done for consideration.
Our ideas are kept on a mystical document called the Master List of Articles in Development, known lovingly as the MLAD. Each article on the MLAD is assigned a number, and it is VERY IMPORTANT that you remember the number of any article that is assigned to you. Write it down or commit it to memory, as we get testy when you don’t know the number. If you’d like a pre-Playa assignment, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us a little about yourself. Writing experience is not necessary, we’ll work with you.
You can also suggest a topic. If you want to go this route, try to devise something that will be of interest to many of Black Rock’s citizens. In practice, articles written solely from your perspective would be less interesting than those that include the perspectives of many people. As an example, another Playa publication once had a fine article by a writer who brought her dog to Burning Man in one of the years when this was still possible. Rather than just talk about her dog, she talked to several other dog owners and recorded their experiences as well.
2. There are several general categories of articles:
A. News. A news article describes an important event. Most news articles will be assigned by the editors and written on the Playa. Examples: Aliens land at Black Rock Airport, extreme heat causes spontaneous combustion. (A newspaper saw: Bad news is good news; this is not so much because journalists are dour miserable creatures, though they tend to be, but because most surprises in life are not pleasant. Another newspaper saw: Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is news; so naked people at Burning Man are not news for the Black Rock Beacon but an igloo would be).
Sometimes a news event just happens; If a meteorite crashes into Center Camp, you go, look, describe what happened, talk to the people affected, get a photo. Often, however, a news article describes a contentious event. In these cases, it is your goal to present all sides of the story, PLUS some kind of neutral observations. To take an obvious example, consider drug arrests. Privately, few of us think these are a good idea, but we will not portray them as bad or good. They are just something that happens and that people might want to read about. So it is just as important to present the point of view of the police as it is to chronicle the reactions of those arrested and of their friends. This has the practical effect of encouraging the police and other authorities to take us seriously and tell us their side of the story, knowing that they will get a fair shake.
B. Features. Often the hardest to write, often the most memorable. A feature illuminates a topic of interest. Nothing has to happen in a feature (unlike a news story), but it is often linked to a specific event. A feature can also be an interview with somebody interesting, either because of who they are, what they have done, or something that happened to them.
Something common to news and features is that they do not contain fictional elements. News articles do NOT contain your opinions; features may do so in an analytical sort of way.
Features are often investigative and are likely to be at least partially researched before we hit the Playa so that facts can be checked and people can be reached by phone. We are looking got arrive in Black Rock City with 10 to 15 features ready to be printed.Often the hardest to write, and often the most memorable. A feature illuminates a topic of interest. Nothing has to happen in a feature (unlike a news story), but it is often linked to a specific event. A feature can also be an interview with somebody interesting, either because of who they are, what they have done, or something that happened to them.
Something common to news and features is that they do not contain fictional elements. News articles do NOT contain your opinions; features may do so in an analytical sort of way. Features are often investigative and are likely to be at least partially researched before we hit the Playa so that facts can be checked and people can be reached by phone. We are looking to arrive in Black Rock City with 10 to 15 features ready to be printed.
C. Arts. Some art coverage will be in the form of news or features about works around the city. But there is also art criticism, which is meant not to criticize (though it sometimes does) but to illuminate a work so that readers can decide if they want to experience it, and if they do, to have that experience enhanced with some knowledge of what they are confronting. Here opinion does come into play, but it must be supported by reason and must be accessible to those that do not share your point of view. So this would not do: At Black Rock City, they play a lot of techno music, and it sucks. while this would be okay: At Black Rock City they play a lot of techno music. Much of it is repetitive in a machine-like way, which makes it a suitable for dancing but the rhythm quickly becomes monotonous and melodies are not a strong point.
D. Opinion. Opinion articles take several forms. Some are columns, which present the writer’s ideas, usually a take on some broadly defined subject. Here, it is mostly opinion, and facts are used only to buttress arguments. There may be room for separate opinion pieces, not part of a column. Your chances of landing some space for one would be enhanced by picking topics with which others can identify and which make people think about something they might not have thought about before.
Opinion pieces are also the place for satire, hyperbole and the World According to You. But see above for ways to make your work a good read for all.
E. Fiction. We may have room for outright fiction, but then again, we may not. Perhaps something along the lines of Dickens, a 300-word chapter of a story every day, reacting to current events and people’s feelings about the previous parts?
For any kind of article, 500 words is the maximum length. If you submit by email, send the article in the body of the message as plain text (ASCII) and, if possible, as an attached text file, 1.5 line spacing, double space between paragraphs; no special tabs or formatting, please.
Please note: Except for fiction and some satirical opinion pieces, everything you read in the Black Rock Beacon will be as close to the truth as we can make it. We’re aiming for gonzo journalism, but it’s still journalism
Submitting Articles on the Playa
If you think you will want to write for the Black Rock Beacon on the Playa, it would be good if you could bring a computer with you, and even better if that computer is a Macintosh. The easiest way to get us stuff is to put it on a flash drive. We will have a limited number of computers in our news hut that can be used to input stories, and, since most Playa articles will be pretty short, you could also just grab paper and pencil and scratch it out. If we decide to use it, we’ll get somebody to keyboard it.
Whenever you submit an article to us, we’ll need to know the following about you. Put it right at the top of your piece.
Playa name (optional)
Where you’re camped
You can use your real name, Playa name or a nom de plume for your byline, just start your article with “By BYLINE” so that we know how you want to be credited. Some people choose to use aliases on the article but their real names in our staff box, which is fine as long as you let us know.
Remember this promise: “It’s always a definite maybe that your piece will go to print.” The Black Rock Beacon is a paper-thin, 2-sided 11″ x 17″ newspaper. Our editors will be jostling, looking for balance, continuity, redundancies. If your piece is not printed on the Playa, then we’ll try to get it up on the website after (or perhaps during) the event.