Writers Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in contributing to Humanosphere.

We think people should care about the fight against poverty and inequity, so we look for stories that accurately reflect these beliefs. Whether you’re writing about disaster aid from post-earthquake Nepal or international development policy from a hipster cafe in Brooklyn, we are always looking for fresh perspectives, interesting insights, and a commitment to making the world a better place.

Are you a Humanospherian?

We know that the best reporting and stories can often come from the most unlikely of places and believe that anyone can be a Humanospherian. He/she loves to tell stories and wants to influence the public dialogue about global development so we can actually live up to the lofty aspiration of a more just and equitable world.

We look for writers who do their homework and write high quality stories but are not afraid of taking a stand and holding people or organizations accountable. We want stories that have authority, flavor, and personality. These stories are told well and engage readers because they demonstrate that you also “give a damn”.

That being said, we do have some basic expectations for people who want to become rich and famous by fighting global poverty and inequity. For example, the average Humanospherian has the following traits:

  • You are intelligent, ask good questions, and have a knack for telling great stories
  • You have a strong opinion about poverty and inequity
  • You think Humanosphere is the cat’s meow
  • Your research and analysis skills are stellar
  • You have a good sense of humor
  • You write well so we don’t have to spend all day editing your stuff
  • Your stories are relevant
  • You are excited to be a part of the new era of journalism in a rapidly changing world

What we look for in a story

Since the traditional narrative on aid and development is frequently weak, predictable and boring, we are looking for stories that go beyond the simple “this is what happened” or “hey, I’m an American who cares about poor Africans” or “hey, I’m African and you Americans who care about poor Africans are hurting my country.”

We want provocative and engaging stories about what is really going on in the worlds of Global Health, Human Rights, World Politics, Science, Social Business, and Environment. A good story is a good story, sometimes especially because it can’t be categorized – we’ve got ‘Basics’ for that!

We are especially interested in stories that touch on education, environment, and gender equity.
If you’re asking yourself what a good Humanosphere story looks like, here are some examples that embody the Humanosphere approach:

We love funny, provocative and new angles that engage readers. Suggest investigative pieces that blow the lid off a scandal. Do a profile of an activist in Kampala. Shoot a video of kids at play. Whatever. We take our mission seriously and want serious stories. But more important than being serious is being read. We love humor – especially the snarky kind.

What we look for in a news story query and/or pitch

  • A great idea in one of our categories (check them out here)
  • A draft headline, an outline of what you want to explore, and the methodology you will use to tell the story
  • No more than 5 sentences – you don’t need to write an essay telling us how you will write an essay
  • Demonstrated understanding of who we are and what we’re trying to do (i.e. you ‘get it’)
  • Answers to the following questions: “Why this story?”, “Why Humanosphere?”, & “Who is the intended audience?”
  • Examples of your previous work
  • When you send us your query/pitch, please tell us a bit about yourself and include examples of your work.

Important considerations for any news story, especially those for Humanosphere
When we go through queries, pitches, and stories from freelance writers, we look at them through the following set of lenses:

  • Is this news?
  • Say what the point is as soon as possible
  • Don’t be boring
  • Have a voice (and even attitude) but be fair

In essence, the stronger your piece is against these criteria, the more likely we will work with you.

What we look for in opinion & analysis pieces

  • Unique insight into something already going on.
  • Analysis and insight that makes us think “Wow, this person is a thought leader in XYZ topic” because we are always looking for people who can lead…with their thoughts.
  • The same requirements for a news story since the piece needs to be engaging, relevant, and professional. You just get to throw your own opinion around a bit more on this one.

What we look for in photos and videos

  • Visuals that grab people’s attention without resorting to stereotypes (e.g. starving Ethiopian child with sad eyes)
  • Visuals that speak more than a thousand words – we are thinking of around 10,000 words
  • Visuals that complement our stories

What we are (usually) NOT looking for

  • Fiction, poetry, stream of consciousness
  • Stuff with terrible grammar
  • A story that we just covered
  • Something already published by someone else
  • Stories about your amazing trip to India that transformed your worldview (i.e. travel blogs)
  • Press releases and cheerleadering for a specific organization
  • Stories that only five people would read
  • Stories that wax too poetic (We like poetry, don’t get us wrong. It’s just hard to do well…)
  • Profanity – as Ron Burgundy would say, “keep it classy”

Length and compensation

  • Most features range from 1,500 to 2,500 words.
  • Most stories generally run from 750 to 1,500 words.
  • Most opinion pieces run from 500 to 800 words. We don’t compensate people for opinion pieces.
  • If the story is good, it will earn you money. Not a lot, but that is significantly more than what you’d earn from other news outlets, which is a frustrating reality that we want to change.
  • Payment is made upon acceptance of the final edited piece.

Next steps

If you’ve read this and find yourself excited to be a Humanospherian, send your pitch/query to info@humanosphere.org with the subject line “query” or “pitch”.

Thank you so much for being an integral part of the Humanosphere community!