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Syndkt | Writer’s guidelines

Welcome to Dispatches Syndkt, the independent Canadian weekly editorial content service for community newspapers across the country. What follows is for freelance writers producing Syndkt stories.

What you need to know to write/create for us:

  • We are independent – which means we don’t uncritically accept news releases as fact; we don’t sell opinions. The Syndkt is not ad copy gussied-up to look like straight editorial… it’s independent, balanced, fair, exciting and opinionated.
  • We don’t accept free flights, tickets, hotels, meals… anything designed to sway your opinion or make you feel beholden is off limits.
  • Dispatches Syndkt isn’t about rewriting releases.  Good journalism means reporting, sifting, linking, aggregating, editing, collaborating and presenting aspects of our wonderfully chaotic, intriguing world in a way that captures interest, engages, informs and delights.
  • If something stinks, say so. But if something is good, say so too.
  • We like strong and evocative leads and snappy closes. Seduce readers with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and the feel of what you are covering.  Show your curiosity and enthusiasm for the subject.
  • We like short sentences and good cadence. We love colour in writing. This means bringing a place, person or experience to life using all the senses. Take us where you’ve been, show us what you have discovered. Tell us why it matters. Make us care.
  • Tell us stories readers want to inhabit and identify with.
  • We strive for excellence and we know you are capable of producing excellence, which is why you are on the cusp of becoming a Syndkt creator. Sometimes we all rush things and produce work that is less than our best; that’s where our editors will work with you to ensure we finish-up with something polished.
  • Syndkt stories appear in community newspapers across Canada. It is printed editorial (i.e. it appears in the pages of the actual newspaper). The Syndkt editorial team edits and prepares your copy to our standards, after which it is sent to editors at hundreds of papers. If they purchase your copy, it is their prerogative to edit for length and to change other elements of the story (order, heads, etc). Recognize that your piece may not appear exactly as you intended in each publishing instance. Note that editors are cautioned not to change sense, intent or facts in any story. They are encouraged to only edit for length and they are not allowed to change or delete your byline.
  • We want our copy to be sympathetically critical.  It is easy to simply complain. Critical analysis is much harder because it means searching around for solutions or reasons for the lack that you notice. It means imagining solutions. It is a positive exercise and one less likely to be quickly dismissed by readers.  Realize that many of the people you meet on assignment are doing their best, frequently in tough situations. Blanket condemnation doesn’t honour them and their efforts nor does it help make the situation better. The purpose of criticism is to caution those who follow you; to help build-up and possibly improve, not to tear down and destroy.
  • We want our copy to be worldly (in the best sense) and nuanced, indicating a depth of research, a range of interviews, a sense of the joyful and challenging complexity of the world. Your job is to bring experience and your learning to the piece.  Think of yourself as the scout before the oncoming columns of readers/visitors. You are the one who has already been there/explored the subject and like a trusted friend can meld history, first-hand knowledge, research experience and confidence into a compelling reason to understand, engage or visit.
  • We want our copy to be opinionated, but we expect you to back up your views.
  • We believe accuracy is vital in every aspect of a piece, including spelling.
  • We believe in good grammar, proper sentences and punctuation.
  • Grab the word “I,” hustle it out to a nearby wall at dawn and shoot it as a traitor.  It promises inclusion but most often abandons fellow travelers. It aims to be universal but typically packs only one ticket, for the ego of the writer. If you can’t figure out how to write yourself out of the story, you probably shouldn’t be writing for the Syndkt.

Production details:

  • When you get your assignment you will be given a project number – please use it in all correspondence and when you file your drafts.
  • You will get an assignment email listing the topic, angle, length, deadline and other project details. If anything on the assignment brief is unclear, contact us right away.
  • In your brief you will be given the go-live date. That is the day (always a Sunday) on which the story is released to newspapers. Your copy must be live for at least ten days after the go-live date. Avoid any references that will stale-date within that window.
  • File all stories and associated material electronically.
  • After you file a story you will be directed to an online form where you need to provide slug info (vital statistics) on you and your work.
  • We don’t formally fact check each piece but will/may query certain elements of stories as a part of the editing process so keep your references/interview notes.
  • Writers must suggest heads, subheads and pull quotes (where applicable).
  • If your assignment includes photos, captions and photographer credit is required as is the copyright assignment to use the image(s).
  • Bylines are for your name only – no URL, no company name. Please ensure your Dispatches Syndkt editor knows how you want to be identified in your byline.
  • You will probably be asked to rewrite your piece, possibly more than once; our editors will work with you so that the end result is the most developed and captivating story you can produce.
  • We welcome story ideas – pitch them succinctly in an email. If we like the idea, we’ll be in touch.
  • Do not miss deadlines.

Payment:

  • You can expect payment one month after your editorial item goes live in the weekly email to editors.
  • All payments are made electronically and therefore you must supply your bank code, transit number, account number and account name (all of this is typically found on one of your cheques).
  • You will receive 65% of gross revenue (net of taxes)
  • When the one-month payment is made, your work will remain on sale in the Dispatches Syndkt archives (unless you wish it removed or it stale-dates). Any payment for these archival sales will be made once a year.

What you are giving to Dispatches Syndkt:

  • Full copyright to all material for three months from its appearance in the weekly email (the go-live date)
  • The Syndkt sells copyright to the material to weekly newspapers, offering them one-time publication rights and web posting rights. The newspapers are forbidden to resell the material to others.
  • Subscribing newspapers will publish your content in their pages and possibly on their website.
  • All rights to your material revert to you after three months,  although the Syndkt retains the right to carry your material on our website as a sale item in the archives and as samples of published work.
  • You can market a story in Canada on the same subject starting three months after the Syndkt go-live date.

Key info:

Website: dispatches.ca/syndkt
Contributor web destination: dispatches.ca/creators
Editorial email: editor@dispatches.ca
Telephone: 204-298-4932

The Dispatches offices are located in Winnipeg but this is a virtual operation with staff, contractors and freelancers across the country and elsewhere.

Miscellaneous:

Written material needs a national tone and Canadian touchstones.
We use Canadians spelling as per the Globe and Mail style guide.

FAQs and other information is readily available.