How to write for Scouting Magazine

Hello Readers of Jabbering all Day Long

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I’ve been asked to impart some advice for Members of the Movement on what the editors of Scouting are looking for when it comes to articles we publish in the magazine. I hope some of the tips I give here are useful and encourage people to offer ideas and contributions to the people who put together the magazine.

Planning the magazine
The way the magazine is put together takes into account a variety of factors. The editorial team meet two to three months in advance of publication to narrow down what will go on each page: the flatplan. Though this changes around right up to publication, this provides the framework and direction we try and stick to.

The flatplan is made up of bids from internal departments at UK Headquarters, derived from the organisational strategy; advertising themes we use to sell advertising (that subsidises the magazine); and stories we pick up from emails to scouting.magazine@scouts.org.uk and hear about online and through the PR team. And occasionally we may get an idea or a theme that takes our fancy and we get to follow it through to publication.

What works well
If we get an email in with a story, we analyse it based on a few key areas:

  • Originality. Have we covered this before/recently?
  • Quality. How well written is it (ie how much work will this be for me to edit)?
  • Story. What has happened, and how relevant is this to our readers?
  • Imagery. Are there photos attached to the article, and how good are they?

With a magazine like Scouting, with many readers who have been getting it for many years, we’re conscious of giving readers something different with each read, but at the same time, the core activities of Scouting (camping, skills, activities, international adventure) are important to communicate to new leaders. So we look for the central elements but maybe with a different spin or angle.

In each issue we look for a mix of writing styles. Some should be opinion, some from a first person, some about an interview subject, and some that are more traditional reportage. Some humour is good, but the tone needs to be appropriate to what is being written about. Programme material, leadership techniques and good practice are what goes into the five sectional supplements, and case studies about leadership and management issues are fit for Focus, which goes to County and District Commissioners and Group Scout Leaders.

The story is absolutely vital, and sometimes it doesn’t need writing up by the person it happened to, and in these cases, give the magazine team the tip-off and we’ll work together with you on it. And we can sometimes follow up an email with a visit to your meeting (sometimes even with a photographer).

If only we had time…
Because of the time ahead we plan, it’s not possible to get to everywhere and to catch every story, and topical stories that are date sensitive can be hard to schedule for the magazine, although there are always stories for the website.

If in doubt
I think the best bet, if you’re considering sending in a story for the magazine or supplements is to send a summary of the story, or the event that’s coming up, to us first. Because the photos are so important to making the final decision, we may be able to send a photographer or provide guidance on the format they need to be.

I hope this provides some tangible advice in what we look for. The final detail is that a one-page article is 350 words and a two-page 650. Photos should be 300dpi and at least 1MB in size. You can send your ideas to scouting.magazine@scouts.org.uk or contact me direct at elis.matthews@scouts.org.uk.

Regards

Elis Matthews

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