Writer's Guidelines - World Rivers Review

Monday, October 15, 2007

WRR is the foremost international publication devoted to river issues and appropriate freshwater management. We welcome submissions from activists, academics, journalists, project–affected people and others who are involved in the struggle to save rivers from destructive projects. Past issues can be downloaded from the web site.

What Issues Are We Interested In?

A primary focus is the impacts of large dams, channelization projects and diversion schemes (e.g., river engineering works) – but we are always looking for articles on good water management, community work around river issues or water/sanitation/hydropower, and educational pieces that help lay people learn about the workings of watersheds or rivers (e.g., What makes a healthy river? What is involved in restoring a damaged river?). We also welcome more personal pieces about what makes a particular river special (for rivers targeted by development schemes).

We are especially interested in stories about alternatives to large–scale destructive projects, such as sustainable sewerage; equitable and sustainable water–management methods (e.g., rainwater harvesting), and renewable energy alternatives.

We also want to see more stories on river–restoration work, project financing; dam decommissioning, and features that focus on river peoples and their relationship to a river. Good news and success stories are always welcome and far too rare. Finally, we often run a column of short book/video reviews of resources that could help people around the world doing good river work.

We also run features written from the firsthand viewpoint of activists or communities. "Campaigner's Notebook" is written by activists to describe actions and strategies the group/community is taking (while also describing the project at hand). This can be done in first–person, if the author is part of the campaign. "River Voices" is a 750–word opinion piece written by people affected by river–development schemes.

WRR also includes regular interviews with river luminaries––recent examples include an economist from Spain who is working to stop 120 dams on the Ebro River (June 2003), a renewable energy expert in Kenya (April 2003), and a river–restoration expert from South Africa (Feb. 2003). Photo of interviewee required.

For Project-Specific News Stories

We try to keep our news stories as objective as possible. In other words, we don't use highly opinionated language (except for in opinion pieces). Try to tell why a project is ill–conceived through the facts themselves (e.g., "Thousands of successful pastoralists will be relocated for this project, and there is not enough land to resettle them.") It is also good to quote activists and local people to make these points.

Facts are important, as is their accuracy! If you are uncertain about a specific fact, please phrase it so that it is clear where the information comes from, and perhaps use a modifier to show it is not a sure thing (e.g., "Project developers say the project will cost US$200 million, but insiders in the Energy Ministry believe it will cost much more.") Please check your facts before sending us your article. Sometimes it is the fact you are most sure of that betrays you; check them all. It will only hurt those trying to save rivers if our stories are inaccurate.

Consider including the following facts about a project, if the information is available (either woven into the story if that works well, OR in a "Fast Facts" box to accompany the main article):

  • Who is proposing the project, and who is funding it? What is the political context for this project––why is it being proposed at this time, in this place?
  • Who will be affected?
  • What are the environmental and social impacts, and can they be properly mitigated? (include disagreement with the official position if there is some)
  • Are there alternatives? if so, why are they not being entertained more seriously? (If there are good alternatives, this would be important to explain fully and featured prominently –– could even be the focus of the story.)
  • What are the economic ramifications of this development for the country?
  • Has there been an environmental review of the project?
  • Has there been involvement by affected people in the planning of the project?
  • Who is opposing it and why? (And is government repression an issue? explain)
  • What is the expected cost of the project? Also give some indication of its size (megawatts produced, dam height, size of reservoir).

It is good to get quotes from a variety of players to make some of the points, rather than merely stating a long list of dry facts. You can also include information about what steps local NGOs or communities are taking to stop or change the project. If there is an active campaign against the project, you can include that information at the end, a "what you can do" box that could either list who to contact for more info (such as yourselves) or who you can write to protest (e.g., World Bank or other international agency). Feel free to explain cultural aspects of the local people if that would make it a more interesting story. Describe ecosystems that could be harmed, too, and explain species that might lose out to the project.

Other Details

Writing Style: Please write for a global audience, so stories should appeal to a broader audience beyond the borders of one watershed. We do not have a use for highly academic or technical pieces that a lay audience might have trouble understanding.

Length: There are a few typical lengths of stories: 200–250–word News Briefs, 500 word "half pagers" (such as the back page's "Stop Press" feature), one–page news articles (about 1,000 words), and longer features that can run from 1,800–3,000 words (these always require a photo or map as well).

Graphic material: Please let us know what photos or maps are available. Scanned photos are best. Scanned images can be emailed as a "JPG" type file, must be "high resolution" (300 DPI).

Pay: We are sorry to say we do not have a budget to pay authors at this time.