Please consistently follow these guidelines when writing for Memeburn. Any questions, queries or additions — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we write should always be true and factual.
We operate in a news environment where we talk about things we did not know before that needs to surprise our readers.
Show then tell
Statements need to be supported by figures and anecdotes available independently from us and offered from an original source.
Proudly South African
Although we think globally, our stories need to speak to an African audience.
Questions we should always answer:
What happened? Why did this happen? How is this impacting our world or tech-space? Why should we care?
We strive to always be balanced, fair and accurate in our reporting and news decisions. We will always set aside any personal biases and will never deceive and mislead with our reporting. Because we hold others accountable for disclosure, we expect the same of ourselves. While disclosing errors of judgment may be embarrassing, the sooner the lapses are reported; the sooner there is nothing more to say. We are in the often-difficult position of reporting on our clients. Altering a story because it embarrasses a company or individual would create the perception that we shade our news judgment under pressure, and that would cost us our integrity. When exposing the wrongdoing of others, we should be above reproach. Efforts at contacting subjects will always be transparent and verifiable. We will always give subjects the opportunity to deny or comment on our reporting. We do this as we realise that the greater a story’s impact, the greater our obligation to withstand the most exacting scrutiny.
We own up to mistakes and correct them quickly and completely. Fudging a correction hurts the credibility of the organisation. Never delete a story without first correcting a mistake.
A good journalist is motivated by fairness and has an inner sense for identifying and avoiding defamation. If it makes you think for even the briefest second, “Wow, that’s bad,” it may be potentially libelous. Check with the rest of the team before publishing in such a situation.
We aim not to endorse any goods or services other than in a review. We will attend events and conferences without paying only when credentialed and only for the purpose of writing or researching a story. We will never obtain discounts, food, lodging, preferential treatment or other consideration based solely on our status as journalists.
We are legally and ethically obliged to respect the intellectual property of other news organisations and to be honest about our news-gathering. The capital crime in journalism is plagiarism, the act of copying another’s work without attribution. Disciplinary action will be taken when found guilty of plagiarism. Always credit original reporting to those who did the legwork, and never reproduce quotes made to others as if we heard them ourselves. Press summaries must cite the publication that did the reporting and explain the attribution used in the original story.
While facts are in the public domain, the selection and arrangement of those facts may constitute creative expression, which can be protected by copyright. Our work should add value through independent analysis.
We report on everything we read, listen to and see. In doing that we become experts on the subjects we report on. We prepare for interviews, we record everything we see and hear, we follow stories relentlessly and we collect documents and links to the stories that interest us.
We check all names, facts and locations. We know where every fact in a story comes from and should include hyperlinks whenever possible to those facts. We strive to use primary sources which include interviews conducted by the individual who writes the story; official documents obtained by the individual; and company and organization websites.
The 4 W’s
Who, what, why and sometimes so what: these are the questions our stories should answer.
Ingredients to our stories
Playing in a field where there is often too much information available, we should provide the details others fail to identify.
That being said, it is important to identify for our readers what the key piece(s) of information to the news is that will attract their attention.
We should always strive to find an original source and quote them to provide credibility to our story.
Explain first what the story is before providing context.
Asking “what’s the headline” helps leads the focus with these elements:
A lead paragraph and a lead sentence should capture the theme of our stories: what the news is and why it’s important. If stories are about people, we should name them. The same goes for companies. Names make news.
More than rewriting a press release, we need to tell our readers why a new product is important for the company in question, the company’s track record, its outlook, reaction to the news. A nut paragraph tells us why we need to care about a new development, giving perspective to a news event.
A nut paragraph can come from answering one or all of these questions: What’s at stake? What’s the biggest event in the life of this company/person? Who will be hurt/benefit? Better or worse?
Use news judgment to determine what details are important and what can be kept out. But remember to include:
Check and check again.
Examine all sides and present your stories with neutral verbs.
Write with the idea that you are telling a story to friends. When in doubt, listen to George Orwell:
Always try to get an original source, instead of rewriting what you read elsewhere. Find the statement from the individual or company if that wasn’t e-mailed to you or you weren’t present when X or Y was said. Always link to the source when available online. When there is a competitor who breaks news on information we don’t have, we must make our audience aware even if we can’t verify its accuracy right away. When interviewing anonymous sources, we need to seek to verify their authenticity.
When from a statement: the company said in a statement (with a link)
If from an interview always provide location or circumstances: said in an interview via e-mail
Before you read the style guide, we just have one more thing we’d like to say: One of the hallmarks of good writing is context. Make sure you contextualise items, places, companies, people you refer to even though it may seem obvious to you. You are writing for a global, varied audience — don’t just refer to “Mxit” and expect all to know what you are talking about. Tell readers it’s a South African-based instant messenger and social network. Tell them that First National Bank is a South African Bank or that Mocality is a mobile business directory for Africa. This even applies to big companies that you think are fairly well-known. Google for instance, could be referred to as a Silicon Valley-based internet giant. Do the same with online jargon (ROI, CPC, SEO, ORM, SERPs, etc). Wikipedia works particularly well for this — look it up and link to it if you don’t want to have to explain it in full. Remember not everyone knows about what you are talking about and there are readers all over the world reading your piece!
If you use two words as a descriptor, they are hyphenated, e.g.:
Referencing pictures in articles:
Headlines and Bios
We use South African English, and not American English. So while “braai” and “biltong” are just fine, “aluminum” and “thru” are not. More examples:
Punctuation and abbreviations