Transitions Online is always looking for new contributors and new correspondents. We cover 29 countries and a broad range of topics. To do this, we need contributors from every country and from many different walks of life.
But covering so much also means we get many submissions and ideas sent to us. Not every submission will be accepted, and we cannot always reply to every idea and e-mail. This is why you’ll find a few suggestions below. Please read them carefully. If you do, your submission will probably make it to the top of the pile.
About our readers: Assume they are well-informed and intelligent. They may not all be specialists, but they are sharp, well-read, and short of time. To hold their interest, we need to write pieces that bring new issues to light, or new angles to old issues.
We need to show the “big picture”, but support our stories by providing facts and telling details. Opinions need support; otherwise, a reader will dismiss them as weak, lazy, and probably flawed speculation. Transitions Online is not a place for sweeping statements, or articles written for a small group of experts. By writing for TOL, you are becoming part of a public debate.
What will increase your chances of writing for TOL?
1) Read TOL regularly: This is the best way to get an idea of the articles we accept.
2) Think issues, not events: Transitions Online is--as its name suggests--interested in illustrating underlying issues and the process of change in the countries and regions that we cover.
3) Imagine you are face to face with a TOL editor: Explain to us why this issue is important to outsiders, and how it will help them understand a particular country. Show us how you would hold the interest of our readers. Tell us the deeper meanings below the surface of straight news events.
4) Ask us before writing your article: Send us an email outlining your idea. Be brief when you send in an idea. Two paragraphs, or 120 words, is normally enough. Reading an idea is much quicker than reading an article. It will also help you, hopefully, by focusing your thoughts. We know what we’ve written in the past and what we want in the future, so we can give you ideas. Bear in mind that when we say “yes” to a submission, it will almost always be with a caveat, and we will want you to fine-tune your idea.
5) Do not send generic ideas: TOL editors receive many ideas and articles with very general headlines and very general themes. Our readers will have seen many similar pieces. They will probably not read another one. Explain in detail why this topic is relevant and important. When you write, remember that our readers are knowledgeable enough to not need an introduction to the subject, or a long history of the country.
6) Send us ideas with something unusual or unexpected about them. Every publication likes to find a new issue, a different angle, and a counter-intuitive fact. There are a vast number of such topics in the 29 countries we cover. You can help us find them.
7) Look further afield: Send us ideas about social trends, the rural-urban divide, religion, health, gender issues, ethnic groups, minorities, cultural issues, and history that is making news. We are interested in immigration, the world of work, business, environment, key natural resources, law and order, the media, and NGOs, not simply domestic politics and international relations. Articles about specific regions are particularly welcome. We aren’t here to record everything that happens, but we do want to pinpoint how important elements in a country’s political, economic, social, and cultural life are changing.
8) Prove your credentials: Give us some indication how deeply you know the subject you want to write about. We may ask you to send samples of work you have done in the past.
9) Indicate your sources: This is part of building your credibility. We need to be sure you know your field. Say what type of sources you might look at. Name an expert or two whom you plan to contact or whom you have contacted; this helps us know how strong your story idea is.
10) Write simply, clearly, sharply: The writing style of your email gives us an indication of how you will write in an article. Loose, dense, and jargon-laden language reduces the chances of success.
11) Suggest a format for an article: TOL runs a variety of different types of articles, which are explained more fully below. Please indicate what type of article you would like to submit.
As a magazine, we are interested in the issues that underlie recent events. We are not interested in simply saying “this happened;” we want to know why, how, and what this says about public and political attitudes. For example: A story about some Romanian villagers reacting angrily about the establishment of a tuberculosis ward in their village could be viewed as an isolated, relatively unimportant incident. But add in that Romania has the highest rate of TB infection in Europe and is trying to deal with it in various ways, and you are exploring an important issue, not simply reporting a small incident. We may not cover such a theme again for a while; a correspondent should therefore aim to tell readers the most important aspects of the issue in one go.
If you would like to be a local correspondent, write to email@example.com
Please send us your resume, and a sample of work, if possible. You should expect to be put through a trial period before becoming a regular correspondent. A TOL correspondent is, with rare exception, a native of the country he or she covers.
A feature requires you to get out and explore a topic, bringing important facts, color, opinions, and the voices of ordinary people to the fore. Your pitch must therefore show clearly what issues and angles need to be addressed in order to produce a good story. You should also say what people you would try to contact. Suggest a possible lead or intro into the story. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinions and Analyses
Our articles become part of a public debate--or try to start one. We need to show our readers what the public debate is, and in your pitch, you must show us some of the contours of current debate on the issue. Show us, too, the general direction that you would like to take the discussion. Opinion pieces, like regular news stories, need to have facts, sources, and attributions to support an argument or point you make.
You might want to view an analysis as the same as an opinion piece, but with more rigorous demands made of it. All the requirements are common to every other piece you write. The language should be careful; the structure, the logic, and the connections must be clear; and the sources should be given. But you have to take even more care that the various aspects of the issue are explored in-depth. It must also read as if you’re writing for a magazine, not a conference. The analyses must be dynamic. They must have a thread that runs from beginning to end. They must develop an argument and come to a preliminary conclusion, or offer some important thoughts.
Your pitch must reflect that. It must indicate some of the issues that need to be touched on, and it must indicate what your underlying theme and argument will be. Again, list the sources that you will draw on. Please write to email@example.com
The aim of our “Notes From” column is the same as in our other sections: to provide readers with an insight into an important issue in the country. That is the end point. The starting point can be anything: an unusual feature of life in your country, a small or major incident, a statement, or an anecdote. How you get from the starting point to the end point is up to you.
In a pitch, you should therefore show why the topic is important or interesting; how you would like to approach the topic; and why you think this issue is better treated in this format than in another. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
It is even clearer with a book review (or at least the books that we review) that the writer is taking part in a public debate. A book review has to outline that debate, where the book fits into that debate, and some of your views on the book. When you make a pitch about a book that you want to review, your e-mail should say something about why this is an important topic area, what contribution this book tries to make, and some of the aspects that you would consider. Please write to email@example.com
Our culture section has the same formats and the same demands. But what is TOL’s idea of “culture?” We are not an arts magazine. We will not write a review that, for example, simply writes about one play and the performances of its actors. As our name suggests, we are interested in transitions, in how important changes in political, social, and economic life are showing through in a country’s culture. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Legal Points
By agreeing to publish articles, photographs, or artwork in TOL, contributors also agree to allow the reuse of such materials, in both complete and altered form, in other TOL products, on the websites of our content partners, and through our syndication agreements. Transitions Online also holds the reprint rights for such materials.
Versions of articles published elsewhere are accepted, as long as the story has not been published in the English-language mainstream press. In such cases, please include when and where the work was previously published, and whether it is covered by copyright.