Citizen Journalism: How to Become a Citizen Journalist in Chester County

In some respects, MyChesCo can be described a user-generated social news website. Our mission is “to unite Chester County’s people, services, and companies while creating simple, convenient, and easy to use communication and marketplace tools.” In order to accomplish this, our strategy is to provide a venue with services one can use to stay in touch with friends and family, learn what’s going on in Chester County, and to share and express issues and opinions that matter. Consequently, MyChesCo gives every Chester County resident the opportunity to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.

Citizen journalism is an alternate method of news gathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions and is a response to shortcomings in the local, professional journalistic field. Are you a sharp critic, examiner, and analyst of social media, blogs, and independent media about Chester County or one of her municipalities? Do you find that some topics are largely ignored or misrepresented by traditional news outlets? Please, join our team of volunteer writers. The first step is becoming a registered member of the MyChesCo community.

How to Write for MyChesCo

We believe consistently high standards will add credibility to the citizen journalism on our site. Therefore, MyChesCo has developed the Guest Post Guidelines. It is a living document that provides a set of standards to ensure citizen journalism content is consistent and clear for readers. Nevertheless, below is a summary of the MyChesCo editorial standards. Please understand these standards are a baseline and are not intended to address every issue or to be all-inclusive. So, additional rules and limitations may apply. MyChesCo is the final arbiter of what does and does not violate our guidelines and standards, and all decisions are final.

MyChesCo Citizen Journalism Editorial Standards

Honest journalism is the cornerstone of democracy. So, citizen journalism has a duty to enlighten the public and seek truth through a fair and comprehensive account of issues and events.  Consequently, a conscientious citizen journalist will serve the public with honesty and thoroughness. Ultimately, integrity is the foundation of credibility. Therefore, MyChesCo has adopted the following editorial standards of practice.

  • Always be as accurate and fact-based as possible. It is important to test the correctness of information and data. Be accurate and work carefully to avoid errors.
  • Make every attempt to give the subject of the news story the opportunity to respond to any accusations of wrongdoing.
  • Disclose sources whenever possible, especially when addressing controversial subjects. Readers deserve as much information as possible about sources of information.
  • Question the motives of sources before granting anonymity. Additionally, clearly define the conditions of the anonymity promised for the information, and keep your promise.
  • We are all human and we all make mistakes. Admit errors quickly and correct them without delay.
  • Do not make use of headlines, photos, videos, audio, quotes or other materials that misrepresent, oversimplify, or take out of context an issue or event.
  • While image enhancement for clarity is permissible, do not modify photos, videos, or audio to distort or misrepresent the content.
  • Avoid staged news events or misleading reenactments. If a reenactment is necessary to tell the story, clearly label it as such.
  • Make use of undercover or other clandestine techniques for information gathering only when traditional open methods will not yield information important to the public. Use of such techniques should be described in the article.
  • Do not plagiarize. Moreover, limit quotes from cited materials to 20 percent or less of the article.
  • Be brave and tell the article of the variety and degree of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular or scorned.
  • Consider your own cultural values and avoid inflicting those values on others.
  • Stay true to MyChesCo values.
    • Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
    • Be conscious of labeling individuals, people, and groups. It is always good to question titles, phrases, images, and practices used in traditional media and by our government. Please, only use labels and terms that are in line with MyChesCo’s values and community standards.
    • Support the open exchange of views, opinions, and ideas, even when you find them repugnant. (Especially if you find them repugnant.)
    • Use your reporting to build community and encourage meaningful conversation.
    • Give a voice to the voiceless; both official and unofficial sources of information can be equally important and valid.
    • Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is transparent and conducted in the open. Demand that government records are accessible and available for inspection.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    • When there is an unavoidable conflict, disclose it and be as transparent as possible.
    • Citizen journalists should make a clear distinction between advocacy and hard news. Always identify analysis and commentary as such and do not misrepresent facts or context.
    • MyChesCo does accept press releases from businesses, organizations, and causes. Nevertheless, do not blur the lines between news and advertising.
    • Always be honest and avoid puffery that intentionally misrepresents or exaggerates the importance or popularity of the initiatives or causes you are linked.
    • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations for compromising your journalistic integrity.
    • Become watchful and brave about holding those with power answerable to the public.
    • Refuse special treatment to advertisers and special interests and stand fast against their pressure to influence coverage.
  • Limit any harm from reporting the news.
    • First and foremost. use special care when reporting on children and photos of children.
    • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photos of those touched by a tragedy or grief.
    • Be careful and accurate when identifying criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
    • Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.
    • Understand your subject matter and that some reports may cause harm to certain subjects and sources. It is important to be responsible and show compassion for those who may be adversely impacted.
    • With very few exceptions, do not identify victims of sex crimes or juvenile suspects. However, some victims want their story told. When in doubt, contact MyChesCo staff prior to writing.
    • Always be careful when describing a person’s relationship to a belief system, religion, political ideology or otherwise. People are regularly shunned, blacklisted, ostracized, and denounced for their personal beliefs or lifestyle.
    • Understand that private people have more right to manage information about themselves than do public officials and those seeking power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into an everyday person’s privacy.

MyChesCo Citizen Journalism Story Checklist

Before writing your first article, please review the Guest Post Guidelines. This is a living document that provides article standards to ensure MyChesCo content is consistent, readable, and concise. Regardless, before submitting your MyChesCo article for review, check these items:

  • Headline: Does your article have a compelling headline? The best headlines will motivate a reader to share the article on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
  • Photo: Is there a large image that can be used as the Featured image? Do you have permission to use it? If required, did you include the photo info and the link? Some images are free to use without attribution. And, did you upload it with the article?
  • Context: Did you clearly identify the purpose of the article? Why is this news breaking or trending, and why is it important to Chester County? Did you provide the reader sufficient background and information to understand this article?
  • Big picture closing: Did you have a concluding paragraph? What do you want the reader to feel after reading the article? Should they understand the magnitude of the problem? Or, should the story convey a sense of hope? Ensure your last sentences really speak to them.
  • Categories: Did you choose the most appropriate categories?
  • Do you have a saved backup copy of the article? We recommend writing your draft using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or other word processor or text editor. Glitches and tech errors can and occasionally do happen.

MyChesCo Article Edit Request

Any person can submit a correction or edit request they would like to see, in any MyChesCo article, using our contact page.