The IVN platform is an integrated news and information network built from the ground up for the Internet. IVN is, first and foremost, a source of public policy news and opinion. It is a one-stop shop for readers seeking both objective and subjective information on public policy, elections, and candidates.

Are you a journalist, public official, or civic leader? Then, publishing on IVN is easy. All you have to do is click here, fill out a few questions, and sit back. An IVN editor will contact you shortly.

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Writers who have a proven record of understanding IVN’s standards and edit-flow system are given “author” status. Authors can pitch and claim compensated articles, qualify for IVN press credentials, and have an opportunity to become editors.

IVN’s reputation, credibility, and status as a news source are preserved through its adherence to a published etiquette and editorial guideline. These guidelines ensure that both authors and readers benefit from robust and diverse content in a civil environment.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.

Etiquette

IVN writers collaborate with IVN’s editors, who plan, manage, edit, and publish our website’s news content.

IVN Editors are not English teachers nor proofreaders for article submissions that have not been diligently proofread and corrected by the writer. IVN writers are expected to already have a strong command over English mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling, and to submit publish-ready work for editors to review.

Editors do review all submissions prior to publication, and act as a last line of defense against the occasional typo or mistake that sometimes slips past a good writer. More central to their role, Editors are Journalism teachers that educate, equip, and push IVN writers to learn, understand, and do quality journalism. Editors also find important news stories for IVN’s writers to cover, they review and accept or reject pitches for news stories from IVN’s writers, and they collaborate with writers on articles in progress to help them do their very best journalism.

IVN writers will mostly interact with and learn from IVN’s editors through our website’s powerful content management platform, Edit Flow.

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A “Pitch” is an idea for a new article that a writer submits for an editor’s approval before beginning to work on the article.

To pitch an article in Edit Flow simply start a new post and hit save. Or submit your pitch by sending an email to [email protected]. New posts created by IVN Authors are set to Pitch status by default.

In your pitch, include a working title, appropriate website categories, your deadline for completion, and a brief outline of the points you plan to cover in your article in the order you plan to cover them. Include links for sources you plan to cite in the article. You can even write questions you might have for the editor. When finished, save your pitch and an IVN editor will respond promptly by either rejecting or accepting the pitch.

Editors will always explain why they rejected a pitch with feedback in the Editorial Comments form. When they approve a pitch, they’ll provide any guidance or helpful resources they have to share in the Editorial Comments form, and then set your post to In Progress status.

Editorial comments will automatically be emailed to your user account email address. So will notifications of any changes in your post status.

A good pitch includes:

  • Choosing a story or taking an angle on a topic that isn’t being widely covered by major media outlets
  • Links to credible, primary sources or interview plans
  • Policy-oriented examination

A bad pitch will have:

  • No links to sources, or secondary ‘he-said, she-said’ sources
  • Saying that all Democrats believe ‘x’ or all Republicans want to do ‘y’ is a sure way to have a pitch rejected.
  • Old and outdated information.

An “Available” article is like a “Pitch” only in reverse: These are article ideas editors want covered on the website and submit to the Available article queue in WordPress for writers to claim if they would like to write the article.

Available Stories are leads for news articles or interviews that editors want to see covered on IVN.
Before pitching your own story for your next article, always check Available Stories first to see if there’s one that you would be well-suited to write.

Available stories will have a working title, assignment notes and guidelines, a word count to aim for, and a calendar deadline.

Authors claim Available Stories by clicking the Claim button. Only claim an article if you will be able to complete it by the deadline. After clicking “Claim” the story will automatically be assigned to you and set to In Progress status in Edit Flow.

Some Available Stories will only display a ‘Claim’ button for writers whose accounts have been upgraded to Author status. These are priority stories and interviews that editors need a more experienced IVN writer with a consistent record of quality work to cover.

Periodically, editors will post an Available Story that they want covered quickly and at a high level of quality. These will be marked in the Assignment notes as Paid Articles with the amount of compensation included for an article written to IVN standards and completed by the deadline.

Paid articles will only be Available for writers who have graduated to author status, may not be announced in advance, and will be assigned to the first author to claim them, so if you want to write a paid article, make achieving Author Status with IVN a priority and check Edit Flow Available Stories frequently.

When a writer claims an “Available” article or when an editor approves a “Pitch” for a new article, it will automatically change to an article “In Progress.”

When a writer completes an “In Progress” article and is ready for an editor to take a final look and publish it, they set it to “Ready to Publish.” This means that it meets all of IVN’s standards, has properly completed SEO fields, and has been carefully proofread at least twice (and not in the same sitting) and corrected for any errors. If an editor finds the article is not publish-ready, it will be reset to “In Progress” status and the writer will be asked to review it and make necessary changes. If the article is ready for publication, the editor will schedule it for publication on the website.

When a writer completes an “In Progress” article and is ready for an editor to take a final look and publish it, they set it to “Ready to Publish.” This means that it meets all of IVN’s standards, has properly completed SEO fields, and has been carefully proofread at least twice (and not in the same sitting) and corrected for any errors. If an editor finds the article is not publish-ready, it will be reset to “In Progress” status and the writer will be asked to review it and make necessary changes. If the article is ready for publication, the editor will schedule it for publication on the website.

Published articles are those “Ready to Publish” articles that have been reviewed and then published live to IVN.us by an editor. These are the articles that our audience comes to our website to read. They display on our website’s front page and in Google News search results (because IVN is an official Google News source). A good journalist’s work for an article isn’t finished once it reaches this status. Sharing your published pieces across your social media channels, promoting it to bloggers that may be interested in linking to it, and reading and responding to the comments readers leave on it will greatly increase your audience and interactivity on your articles.

All IVN news articles must contain a featured image, which should be landscape oriented and preferably 600px wide by 400px tall.

Avoid using: clip art, political cartoons, or photos that are grainy, pixelated, or otherwise of low quality.

Photos from Getty images, the Associated Press (AP), or Reuters, are often copyright protected unless otherwise stated. The unlawful use of copy-written images is prohibited on IVN.

Some sources for ‘copy-left’ or freely available images include:

We also have an ongoing agreement with Shutterstock.com. If you find an image you’d like to use on Shutterstock, simply add the image URL in your post when it is ready to publish and the editorial team will retrieve it for you.

Most of your news articles will involve at least one government body on a local, state, or federal level that has a building you can use a photo of to illustrate your article.

For instance, an article about a city ordinance in LA could be illustrated with a photo of LA City Hall. An article about a controversial bill in Pennsylvania could be illustrated with a photo of the state Capitol building in Harrisburg. An article about the US military could be illustrated with a photo of the Pentagon.

When uploading a photo to your article, first save it to your computer from your source on the Internet. You should upload it from your hard drive rather than hotlinking it from the source.

Use the ‘Set Featured Image’ widget located in the right side of your article dashboard (scroll down if you don’t see it at the top).

Again, make sure to select “From Computer,” not From URL, and then click the Select Files button in the center of the screen. Choose your image file and upload it.

Be sure to add a source attribution at the bottom of your article citing the the name of the photographer or source website.

Be sure to check the “preview” to make sure everything went according to plan.

After you’ve completed an article, it’s very important to carefully proofread for typos and grammar mistakes. IVN’s Editors will look for and correct the occasional typo or grammatical error that may slip by you, but will not take the time to heavily edit a submission with too many errors.

Before setting your In Progress article to Ready to Publish status using the publish form near the top of the right sidebar on the Edit Page, you should make sure that it is in fact, publish ready. While the following list is not comprehensive, here are some of the most common grammar mistakes to avoid:

Remember to never use double spaces between sentences. This is an outdated convention from the era of typewriters and although it is still common, all English manuals of style now consider it incorrect for any kind of writing.

Remember that singular nouns like the names of countries, corporations, organizations, and governmental agencies and bodies like the Food and Drug Administration and Congress, should not be referenced with plural pronouns. This is a common mistake.

The sentence: “Congress decided they will not hold a vote on the bill until after the election,” is incorrect. It should say, “Congress decided it will not hold a vote on the bill until after the election.”

Remember to use commas before coordinating conjunctions like “but.” In most cases also use commas to separate the word “however” from the rest of the sentence.

Do not use commas to separate independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction. This is called comma splicing. Either include the conjunction, use a semicolon when appropriate, or use a period and start a new sentence.

When using commas to separate elements in lists, always use the final, Oxford Comma, as it’s called, before the word and, and the last item in the list. This avoids ambiguity. Without an Oxford Comma in the list, “my parents, Ayn Rand and God,” the reader might not know if this is a list, or if the writer is saying their parent’s names are Ayn Rand and God.

Always capitalize proper nouns that refer to specific people, places, and things. Do not capitalize Common nouns which do not refer to specific people, places, nor things.

The word “president” should almost never be capitalized unless it is used as a title directly preceding the president’s name. The same goes for other titles like “senator, governor, and congressman.”

When abbreviating “US,” or UN, do not use periods. Different style manuals differ over this question. IVN prefers no periods in these abbreviations.

Be conscious of which prepositions you use. Many writers use less than ideal prepositions when a different one would be more appropriate.

Always use quotation marks around quotations you’ve taken from someone else. If your quotation is several lines long, skip a line and start a new paragraph for it, put it in quotation marks, and then highlight the entire quoted paragraph and use the block quotes tool to block quote it.

Always use a colon at the end of a sentence before a block quoted paragraph, not a period, comma, nor semi colon. Never put your hyperlink to the source of a quotation within the quoted text. Include it in the text before the quotation in an appropriate place. And as always, make sure your links are short and unobtrusive.

Avoid using two verbs when one verb will do. Keep your sentences short, crisp, simple, and direct. This makes for more clear and easy to read writing.

Avoid using the passive voice, in which, the object of a sentence is the agent of the verb. Instead make the agent of a verb the subject of the sentence. The active voice is more simple, direct, concise, and clear.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important skills you will develop writing for IVN.

In the Internet era, people find the information they’re looking for among the hundreds of millions of pages in the World Wide Web by typing a query into a search engine like Google.

As the web grows exponentially in content, a solid grasp of good SEO practices will become even more valuable in the years to come for writers, journalists, artists, corporations, small businesses, non-profits– anybody who wants to make the information on a web page accessible to the people who are looking for that information and want to find it.

Before starting to write out your article, the first thing you should do when your pitch or claimed article has been set to In Progress status, is come up with an SEO strategy for your article, and fill out your SEO fields underneath the article editor on the Edit Page for your post.

Your SEO strategy will hinge on a Focus Keyword. To come up with your focus keyword, try to think like someone who will be using a search engine to find the information that will be published in your news article.

Bear in mind, as you choose your Focus Keyword, that the next step will be to naturally include it in the text of your headline, article, and meta description, so a good focus keyword needs to be both specific, and consist of an order of words that can sound natural in a properly constructed English sentence.

The next step is to insert the Focus Keyword into the text of multiple layers of your article, including the headline, the permalink URL, the article itself, and the meta description. This is required for all IVN articles.

This is what indicates to search engines that your article is very relevant to users typing in your focus keyword or something very similar as their search query, which results in higher rankings and more readers for your writing.

To briefly digress, this will be your final headline when you set your article to Ready to Publish status, and must meet IVN’s standards: Headlines must be 60 characters or less. They should be descriptive and specific, not ambiguous nor vague, and should contain no editorializing, “cuteness,” nor snark.

After adding your focus keyword to your headline, copy the entire headline, click edit next to the permalink field underneath, select or delete the entire field, and paste in the full, updated headline that includes your Focus Keyword.

When you click okay next to the field, it will automatically add hyphens between the words and remove any punctuation unsuitable for URLs.

When you scroll down at this point, you’ll notice that your SEO form has displayed a prompt indicating which fields include your Focus Keyword in green, and which do not in red. All these indicators must be green for an article to be considered Ready to Publish on IVN. If the page URL incorrectly displays red, try saving your article and checking again. If you know your content or some other field contains your Focus Keyword, but the SEO prompt is still red, it’s likely a technical glitch. Simply make a note of it in the Editorial Comments before setting your article to Ready to Publish status.

Now after updating your permalink. copy and paste your headline into the SEO title field in your SEO form as well. This is the title that will display for your article in search engine results, and it should contain your Focus Keyword. Now all that remains red should be the content indicator and the meta description. At this point, you can begin work on the article itself.

As you’re writing, be looking for an opportunity to use your Focus Keyword in a natural way in one or more of the sentences in your article.

After completing the article, you will be able to write a short summary of it in the meta description field of the SEO form. Make sure that it is within the word limit indicated and includes your Focus Keyword.

At this point, all your SEO fields should be green. SEO really doesn’t take long to do, and isn’t very hard with the SEO form provided in WordPress, but it will go a long way toward getting more readers to your article, and it’s a skill that will only be increasingly important to have.