Community Voices guidelines

What kind of pieces Community Voices is looking for, how to send them to Lookout and guidelines for writers.

What is Community Voices?

Community Voices offers a classic opinion section, with a digital twist.

We feature written and video opinion pieces, letters to the editor and short, crowd-sourced stories that answer readers’ questions or offer insights.

Our goal is to capture local voices and better our community by providing a fair, invigorating forum for public debate. We address issues people care about by having those with real expertise share insights and personal stories. We feature official voices (politicians, public health officials, law enforcement), but we particularly look for unheard voices and untold stories.

We are rigorous about fairness, accuracy, accountability and transparency. Community Voices is a public outlet for informed conversation and exchange, where community members share knowledge and lived experience to educate, touch and enrich our readers and help us all understand and weigh issues that matter to our community.

We are looking for:

Op-eds — 700 words or fewer

Interested in writing an opinion essay for Lookout? Please email us at opinion@lookoutlocal.com. Please paste your essay into the body of the email. Don’t send it as a Word or PDF attachment. Please include URLs for statistics, facts and reports mentioned in your essay submission.

We are looking for compelling, timely, honest pieces that will resonate with a wide audience. We are also interested in video submissions, humor pieces and other nontraditional formats. Please include a biography of 30 words or fewer.

Community Voices op-eds comment on public policy, issues in the news or topics relevant to life in Santa Cruz, the Bay Area and California. They also tell personal stories that help us think about ourselves or our lives differently or simply allow us moments of grace or empathy.

Our pages are not for organizations, agencies or individuals trying to bring attention to programs, businesses or achievements. They are for our community to talk to each other about substantive or deeply personal issues.

We give highest priority to local writers writing about Central Coast and Bay Area topics. See below.

Letters to the editor

Share your thoughts by sending a letter to the editor. Email us at letters@lookoutlocal.com. Please include your full name, address and telephone number for verification only. Letters should be 200 words or fewer. Please do not include personal attacks, inaccuracies or vulgarities.

We will fact-check letters for accuracy and select them for relevance, tone and originality. Please send letters that offer a fresh take on a current debate, add new information or nuance to a published piece or that correct an error or misconception in pieces we have published or in the public discourse.

Fix It

Help us fix our community.

Highlight a problem you see in your neighborhood/job/commute/life and tell us in 300 words how you would fix it.

Maybe your street needs speed bumps to prevent accidents. Maybe your son’s school needs more counselors or a music teacher or a printer. Maybe your daughter has a surefire way to save whales from swallowing plastic or to stop bullying. Perhaps you can solve homelessness or fix juvenile justice. It’s just that no one has ever asked.

Now we’re asking.

Let’s make Santa Cruz better one idea at a time.

300 words max.

Opinion essays

How to submit a guest opinion essay

Lookout cannot print every guest essay we receive. We aim to publish approximately three opinion pieces a week and select our topics based on relevance, impact and quality of argument/writing. We look for a diverse mixture of voices and opinions to create a robust forum for public debate.

To be considered, a submission must make a strong argument/tell a compelling story and be no longer than about 700 words.

Community Voices pieces comment on public policy, issues in the news or topics relevant to life in Santa Cruz, the Bay Area and California. Our pages are not for organizations, agencies or individuals trying to bring attention to programs, businesses or achievements.

We give highest priority to local writers writing about Bay Area and Central Coast topics.

Please let us know if your essay has been published elsewhere in print, on a personal blog or on Facebook; we can still use it, but we need to know.

If we use a freelance article from you, you retain ownership of any copyright to the article and the right to resell it.

Where to send

Please send your submission by email to opinion@lookoutlocal.com.

Please include the text of the submission in the body of the email. Don’t send it as a Word or PDF attachment. Please include a short biography (three to five sentences). Please include URLs for statistics, facts and reports mentioned in your essay submission.

We will make every effort to contact you about your submission.

We do not publish guest essays written anonymously or under pseudonyms, except in exceptional circumstances, including when authors fear for their safety, their citizenship status, their job and the like. We will disclose that reasoning to readers. Writers must also not have any direct financial ties to the subject of the essay.

Writing guidelines: Do’s and Don’ts for op-ed writers

DO have an opinion and state it forcefully. We do not want essays that explain issues. We are looking for knowledgeable arguments.

DO be civil. Feel free to strongly criticize ideas, thought processes or positions you disagree with. We will not publish personal attacks.

DO be timely. We give priority to opinions focused on current events.

DO present your case logically and clearly. It’s usually best to start directly with your opinion, rather than building your argument by presenting facts in consecutive paragraphs and your conclusion at the end.

DO be patient. We are a small staff and can’t always answer all queries right away.

DON’T submit essays written by organizations, petitions, promotional content or campaign materials.

DON’T submit essays full of unsubstantiated facts and opinions. You must send URLs for all facts cited in your piece.

DON’T submit opinions widely published elsewhere. Please let us know if you have already published this piece or if other news outlets have covered the issue.

DON’T plagiarize: All content must be original.