WARNING: This article will most likely be tl;dr
As promised, I have compiled a how-to on every step I have taken in preparing war articles for the past 15 months. This is, more or less, the formula I used in preparing each article, from the planning and fact-gathering phases to the writing and image editing processes. The average article would take about 2 hours to produce, although if you recall my The Week That Was series, those would take at least 5 hours scattered over the course of a week; it was awesome to see my work translated into so many languages, though! Anyways, for those who would rather speed read through, here is this article’s breakdown (one note-- I assume that the reader already knows how to format text and images, but this link can help answer any questions there):
Table of Contents, and Quick Description
- Things You Will Need: Useful links and resources for writing articles and following events
- Gathering Information: Noting what is going on, what is being said about it, who’s involved, and why it all matters
- Writing the Article: Making a summary, organizing the information, keeping the article readable, and concisely wrapping up an article. I will also try to address writing without bias and conveying the “so what” for what is being reported
- Image Work: Choosing relevant maps or other images to break up the wall of text.
- Some Words on Marketing: Briefly touching on how to market your paper as a war source to increase your reader base and international exposure
- The Future of the Stars and Stripes Journal: If you make it this far, I’ll discuss where this newspaper will be heading next. I will still be writing, but less often
Things You Will Need
- A Formatting Guide for changing font, adding images, etc.
- My Newspaper, as a template to imitate or for a source on historical events
- Latest Events Page
- Top Rated News Pages
- The Main Wars Page
- Country Pages (just erase USA and put whatever country name in here)
- The World Map and any generic region link (type in the region name, with dashes where a space would be needed)
- eRepublik Wiki can provide some historical context
- National forums such as the eUS Forum can be helpful for public reactions and insights
- Any word processor for taking notes
- Any image hosting website
- Common sense, patience, and dedication
Before publishing anything, do some fact finding and make sure you have the whole story straight
The biggest mistake any prospective war writer can make is to simply take every event at its surface and then immediately hit “publish.” Step 1 is to make sure that you have the latest information available, so the first thing you should do after working/training for the day is check the latest events page. I highly recommend consulting this page and going back as far as your last login, in order to be assured that nothing is missed. This will give you the latest battles or resistance war (RW) campaigns that started or finished, any new treaties or alliances being considered, and is a great launching point for subsequent research. Of course, you are hopefully going to be taking notes while you go through these steps.
From here, you can check other sources to start finding answers. Does a recent declaration of war look strange? Check the media and sort by both countries involved to see if a President, Cabinet member, or prominent politician can provide insights into motives. Also consult the media to see what various countries’ military orders are, as priorities in battle often determine whether a particular fight is worth covering or out of the ordinary to begin with. Less common but still able to be revealed by the media are those instances in which an outside country has been called to avert a political takeover (PTO) or to protect against invasion from a third country. In all likelihood, you will have a good idea of why an action is happening by now; if not, then we move to the next options to find the cause or amplifying information.
A little digging can often show motives for less apparent activities
Sometimes, a country’s motive is not immediately clear. At this point, it may be necessary to do some deeper digging to unearth the real motives and objectives. Looking at the world map and filtering by the various resources, or checking any generic region (add region name) may explain why a country or region is being targeted if the end motive is for new resources. Or using the map in conjunction with media could show a ‘stepping stone’ progression (ie, one country attacking another to reach a third country) or a region swap effort (although these are rarer now than before).
Finding the motive of a RW campaign is also not the most intuitive process, either, but it is possible by seeking reflections in the media or any national forum such as the eUS Forum. Other options are to check the page for any region which is being RW’ed to see who started the RW, in the event that no country’s military orders mention it; in the picture above, I checked the region page for Jelloabuk-do, a natively eSouth Korean region, to see why the eRepublic of China (eRoC) had a RW take place there. The person who started the RW is an EDEN sympathizer at at least seemingly complicit with an eSK effort to take back the region, or at least opposed to the eRoC possibly because of rival eChina's membership in EDEN. This process only takes a minute or two, and in many cases, it would not be necessary if a battle is not significant enough to report. In all likelihood, the answers are more readily available for more meaningful fights, as well.
Finally for the fact finding phase, the main wars page is crucial for looking up battles’ timing, historical precedents in that and other campaigns, and other trends that can be reviewed easily. Knowing when a battle started could answer questions of whether a campaign was diversionary, was synchronized with another attack or a quick counter maneuver, or if the outcome of a battle is inconsistent with previous fights (ie, if one country conquered a traditionally dominant adversary, this signals some international backing). These pages will also reveal the allies at play in each fight and can help make priority a bit clearer.
She gets an “A” for effort
Writing the Article
After doing the behind the scenes work to compile information for a good article, the next step is to write it. Before that, though, you need to analyze what is important and what is not-- otherwise, an article could become unwieldy long and watered down by insignificant topics. While compiling information, I normally sorted what I found by region and would judge whether or not there was anything notable enough to merit being mentioned; this is why, in some cases, I would get comments or PM’s asking why I did not write about a given conflict-- I did not believe it met my threshold for discussion. My typical criteria for this ‘threshold’ was fairly straightforward, and could allow me to ignore “continuation battles,” futile RWs, blocking/diversionary attacks, and campaigns which were more isolated in nature:
- renewed or intensified attacks between traditional rivals
- initiation of a new campaign, either alone or with allies, usually for resources or to punish a rival
- major battles drawing significant international participation, or an attack on a capital or a key resource region
- battles resulting in conquest of a nation
- prolonged RW campaigns, or counterattacks intended to retake lost lands
- radical changes in foreign policy (declarations of war, peace treaties, etc.) or new alliances which could affect the balance of power in a region
My articles normally included a short summary at the head of each, which helped me sort importance of the topics I would write about in deeper detail and would help the reader understand what was going on and decide whether or not to keep reading. The summary needs to remain concise and just touch on a very general level what has taken place. It should also have something to convey why these topics are significant; a good example is the summary of this article, which showed in very concise terms that eIndonesia was still attacking, two adversaries were invading eCanada, and that an unusual peace was developing as a result of the eSpanish war. People who wished to stop reading there (or just skim the pictures) could and still understood the basics of what was going on, while other folks could continue reading and have a framework for the rest of the article.
Building a reputation as a credible writer is essential for continued success
To ensure your paper’s credibility, there are two crucial habits which must become second-nature: the paper must avoid personal anecdotes (“I think,” “that was dumb,” “I hope to see…,” etc.) and try to remain unbiased in its coverage. Personal anecdotes do not have a place in reporting news-- simply said, people are not looking for special comments or your personal reaction when they see a newspaper attempting to provide eRepublik news. Too many personal comments and asides could cause your paper to be discredited or quickly be written off as too partisan. My paper’s greatest success was to be able to present the latest events objectively, without bringing in my personal opinions; even though I have consistently fought for the eUSA, which means I have remained in competition with PEACE/Phoenix, as many as 1/3 of my readers were Phoenix members who thought I remained ‘fair and balanced.’ As long as you focus on what happened, why it matters, and what may be next, and you avoid any personal emotions from coming across, your readership will value your work as a reliable and credible source, and your subscriptions total will grow.
Making educated future assessments requires a combination of eRepublik knowledge which can be amassed over time, keeping track of everything that is taking place, and understanding the motives involved. These are useful for giving additional context to the present events, as long as you avoid predictions like “EDEN will win,” or similar statements. In the same article I referenced earlier, the “final analysis” raises questions about what eIndonesia’s long-term ambitions were, and also predicted (correctly) that the eUK would join in Canada; it also includes a ‘thought-provoking’ prediction on how the eUS-eBrazilian relationship would impact foreign affairs while briefly highlighting the intricacies involved. These sorts of predictions help to neatly tie off the article, while also leaving much to consider in future articles-- it also gives the people who read the entire article something to take away, which increases the probability that they will come back when the next article is written 24-48 hours later.
This section, if it was not clear while reading it, is very fluid and no one clear-cut method works for every article. If you end up being a dedicated war writer and need help crafting an article, please PM me and I will see if I can help your process at all.
Effective use of maps and images will make the article much clearer to the reader
One distinction to make about posting eRepublik maps is that there needs to be some purpose for the map being posted. What I mean here is that merely taking a screen shot of Central Europe will not do any good. Additional amplifying information can and should be added to explain why that part of the world has been highlighted in the first place; my paper used fairly simple symbols such as the RW icon, arrows, circles, squares, etc., although mainegreen’s fantastic work routinely featured a full graphical lexicon he drew upon. In general, for me, an eRep map would be used for one of four reasons:
- clarifies a complex string of attacks by multiple countries in a small area
- shows a sequence of events (past or future) which have taken place or may take place in the next few days
- emphasizes the goals of an attacking nation (resource drive, conquest, land swap, etc.) and any anticipated next steps
- distinguishes easily between RWs and regular attacks which may be taking place separately or in tandem
With any of these criteria in place, I would then add minor editing work to further emphasize the importance of the picture. Whether I did “before and after” pictures, photoshopped over countries or regions which I was not focusing on, or just added my arrows and other symbols, the map would then convey what I sought to show from it. I would then name each map with a simple place and date scheme for my own recollection, and would upload them to one of my four image hosting accounts-- I had four of them because my free bandwidth would often be exceeded from the amount of views my articles received over the course of a month.
Once your images are all set, they should be placed to break up the text of an article. I made sure my maps preceded the text to correspond to them, in case a reader was just looking at the pictures and then decided to read one section they found particularly interesting. For other areas where I did not think an eRep map was necessary, I would either use RL maps from the region, flags of the countries involved, or some other image which could be peripherally relevant.
Getting your newspaper out there is important and no easy task
Some Words on Marketing
I will not spend too much time talking about marketing, but getting your war reports out to the masses is crucial for increasing the readership and getting access to more information. Because my newspaper was international, there would be many times where a reader would provide insightful information I may not have otherwise known, or would suggest topics for future articles. It also makes it much easier to approach another country’s president with questions if they have at least heard of your paper. Phoenix citizens, political leaders, and military officials worldwide are very helpful if you've shown that you mean well, and I owed much to these people for providing me with better clarity throughout my writing process.
To build a substantial reader base, you will need to publish regularly. Since each article lasts in the media for 48 hours, every other day is ideal; however, twice per week should be the bare minimum if war reporting is your goal. You must remain on top of the events and reflect that in frequent articles-- this will also make it easier to write short articles which take less time. Getting your newspaper copious amounts of exposure in the press will increase readership and subscribers in itself.
If you also advertise your articles globally, on IRC, or in other forums, while also writing meaningful articles, your readership will grow and word-of-mouth may cause it to grow further. The important thing to remember here is that ‘success breeds success:’ keep writing and keep writing well, and people will notice your work. You will also get positive reinforcement and feedback which will make continuing to write worthwhile
This newspaper is not going anywhere, but its format will be changing somewhat
The Future of the Stars and Stripes Journal
This newspaper is not going away, but it will not be able to continue the process detailed in this article and produce near-daily reports. I expect that my writing will remain primarily war-focused but on more strategic topics, or assessment pieces on current events (an example of what I would do is Sossu’s recent article). My involvement in eRepublik is not about to decrease-- on the contrary, it may increase next month with Haliman, or if Inwegen asked me to take part in his administration-- but my newspaper will be stepping aside in regular reporting as I have said previously.
I look forward to subscribing to the next great war reporter’s newspaper, and to the next person to come in the line of war reporters which has included myself alongside desertfalcon, mainegreen, Aeros, and Sossu. I hope that the next war reporter(s) may find this guide useful, and will not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I also want to thank everyone who has subscribed and given me positive feedback over these many months, and I assure you that I'm not going anywhere. Stay tuned for more
God Bless America,
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