Writing for Labor Notes

Labor Notes is not only a magazine about labor activists, it is, to a great extent, written by labor activists. Readers are always encouraged to submit articles about activities they are involved in.

Letters to the editors are also encouraged. These can be a response to something published in Labor Notes, or a comment about a recent event. We tend to like our letters short and to the point (300 words and less).

We suggest that you contact the editors, Alexandra Bradbury, Dan DiMaggio, Luis Feliz Leon and Jenny Brown, before writing your article. Address your email to editors[at]labornotes[dot]org and it will reach all of us. We will arrange a deadline with you; most deadlines will fall in the first week of the month. Items for our Resources column should be in by the first of the month.

Labor Notes is a national publication (with an international readership), so your article should emphasize those things that will be of interest to a broad audience. It is important that your article be factual and informative, without rhetoric. Try to give a summary of what the other side (if there is one) is saying and doing. Accuracy is as important as advocacy.

Be as concise as possible. Try to hold your article to 700 or 800 words. Major articles can be sometimes be a bit longer, and shorter items are also welcome.

Indicate how you want to be identified in your article. For example, include your local union number and any office you hold. Also include your phone number and the hours we can reach you.

Send your article by email if you can, preferably as an attached Word document. Pictures or cartoons (which we always appreciate) can be emailed as JPEG files. Emailed photos should be of relatively high resolution to appear decent in print.

We cannot pay for stories. But we will be glad to send you as many copies as you can distribute in your workplace or community.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Elements of a Labor Notes Story:

  • Short and sweet. The shorter your article, the more people will read it!
  • Strong lead (interesting beginning that hooks the reader in)
  • Summary paragraph (shortly after lead, conveys key theme of article)
  • Quotes from appropriate people, including workers (not just union staffers/officers), and perhaps people with broader scope. Avoid clichés like “we’re fighting for dignity and respect”… Instead, get specific, concrete, personal.
  • Relate it to bigger picture: Why should anyone not part of the local scene be interested in this? Is it part of bigger trend? Is there a lesson people can apply elsewhere?
  • A photo. We like action rather than posed. High resolution, 1 MB or more is best.
  • Memorable ending.

Guidelines for Authors:

Assume no prior knowledge. Write for a worker who doesn’t know your industry, your politics, or the history of the topic you’re writing about. Avoid specialized jargon – or explain the meaning of any specialized terms you use.

Try to include some info on the work itself. What is it like to do this job on a typical day? What might be surprising or interesting to readers who don’t work in this industry?

The more "how-to" info you can give, the better. What specific details would be useful to readers in a similar situation? Bulleted lists and step-by-step instructions are great to include.

Credibility. Check your facts. Don’t guess.

Journalistic independence. It’s fine to be friendly with (or part of) the union or group you’re writing about. You may agree to keep some info “off the record” if you think the request is reasonable. But don’t let your sources read or edit your article drafts. We want your reporting, not their press release.

Do your own reporting. Quotes should be original, from your own interviews. If you include a quote from another publication, you must clearly cite the source you got it from, e.g. “Governor Snyder told the New York Times…”

It’s fine to include a few links to other websites or articles if you think readers will find them useful, but please don’t go overboard—we have to code them one by one.

Reprints. After Labor Notes publishes your article, other websites or magazines may republish it. We just ask that they credit Labor Notes and the author, and link to the original on our site.