This isn’t about failing to have your text published, which is something that probably happens to everyone. It’s more about thinking properly about what information your text will leave behind. It’s quite likely that it will form the first basic information about you that others will find when they type your name into Google.
Generally speaking, there are two possibilities for publishing your thoughts:
1. You’ve got your own blog, today typically on iDnes or Lidovky.
This advantage of this option is that it’s quick and convenient, and there’re no limitations on such publishing. No editorial office is going to tell you your text is wrong, that you need to rework it, and so on. At the same time, contrary to blogs on Blogger, Wordpress or Blog, connecting with a media outlet will yield quite interesting results in terms of your reading audience.
2. You send your text to an editorial board.
The next possibility is finding an editorial office or medium in general that is devoted to something you’re interested in and sending them a text. We definitely recommend always looking into their directions (if they’re available), or at least leafing through the given website or magazine so you know how long your text should be, how it should be ordered and so forth. This will save you a lot of work. The great advantage of this method is that someone will read through your text and give you feedback, which will significantly contribute to a good-quality text. At the same time, things like proofreading and help with the headline are also common. Are you looking for examples of such media? If you’re interested in Linux, Linux Magazine is a good option; DMag is good for digital photography, and political commentaries can be found (in Czech) on Britské listy or Neviditelný pes. And, sometimes, you’ll get a little money for it too. Don’t worry if it’s still not good enough – the editorial offices will usually help you.
What are you thinking about with your article? If you’re feeling like writing something, the key to success is having something to say, i.e. a clear and interesting topic that you’re able to process adequately and tell someone about it. The more common the topic, the deeper the understanding of it will be necessary in order to say something interesting.
In addition to a well-thought-out topic, condensed messages and a good knowledge of the issue, another key to a good article is working with sources. A good article must primarily be well-cited. If you’re not using it yet and you want to start writing, we can definitely recommend something like Evernote Web Clipper or at least Pocket. These are services that allow you to save an interesting webpage or other information very quickly and add some quick notes to it, allowing you to carry out further work.
Another key to a good article is working with secondary sources. What does this mean? For example, when I wrote for Lupa, I read things on Techcrunch, which is probably the most important website for news in technology. Not only will it give you an overview of what’s new, it will also provide you with a basic context or the possibility of agreeing or disagreeing with something. If you’re writing in Czech, it’s crucial to use sources in other languages and vice versa. Many good articles are built upon comparing two or three other media reports that are different with your own and giving readers your view of the issue that stems from the text.
It’s a general rule that no media are completely impartial. For example, in Great Britain everyone knows that The Daily Telegraph supports conservatives, The Independent is approximately centrist, and The Guardian or The Sun are left-wing. This doesn’t mean that they never criticize “their own” representatives, but the editorial offices do have their own ideological direction. In the Czech environment, you can see the clear orientation in Haló noviny towards the Czech Communist Party and in Dnes and Lidové noviny towards the Ano Movement.
These preferences can also appear elsewhere, not only in politics. On Root, you’ll rarely find positive mention of Microsoft and Windows; and the same goes for Android on Jablíčkář. This isn’t because these media are intentionally giving biased information about these platforms or corporations; but, the people who are writing and reading the articles have certain preferences, experiences and attitudes. As authors, you have to consider this fact while taking information from them and in selecting the medium that you want to send your article to.
Commentary from experts is something that’s definitely useful for articles. If you take a medium like Respekt and look at the articles there, they almost always contain information (if it’s not an opinion article) on someone saying something. If you’re preparing an article, don’t be afraid to address two or three experts by email with a few short questions. Don’t expect an interview or long answers – usually one or two short sentences is enough. These will reveal their world and perspective to you and also significantly improve the overall effect of the text. My general experience is that many people react rather quickly and flexibly. Don’t be afraid to try it!
Some general guidelines to remember:
- Try to write without mistakes and read over your text after writing it.
- Avoid long paragraphs (four or five lines in Word is the maximum).
- List your sources, ideally in the form of a direct link.
- Make sure you’re clear on where you’re writing to and what you want to say.
- Don’t be afraid to address experts.
- Practice makes perfect – the first articles are always hard, but it gets easier.
- Don’t send one text to multiple media outlets at the same time.
- If you want to devote your time to writing, try reading something about it too.
- Don’t get carried away with feelings-based or emotional outbursts.
- Be careful of the genre you’re writing in – an opinion article is something completely different from an analytical text on the technological aspects of the trade war between the USA and China.