Guidelines for PARI contributors
Index of contents
Types of Articles and Other Content
Essential Writing Requirements
Types of Articles and Other Content
Many different kinds of articles/writing go up on PARI. There are:
Ideally, these articles will be 1,000 words or less, on average. That’s the standard we aim for. An article can go up to 1,200-1,500 words if it is very good – in terms of content, as well as writing and photographs. If it’s a story of truly exceptional merit or on a crucial subject, we can consider a longer word limit for that article – and it can go up to 2,000 words. But if you have something that needs 2,000 words, try and break it into two standalone pieces.
The number of photos in a full-length feature ranges from 4 to 8. (A diptych or triptych is counted as one image). Too many photographs, especially large ones, can actually undermine the readability of the text.
We need brief 1-2 line captions for each photo, identifying the person/ place/ activity/ event in the image.
If the writer has more than 4-8 very good photographs, they can become a Photo album of a maximum of 8-15 photos. Each of these also requires a caption.
For example, Journey through Kumartuli
See the Photo Guidelines for more on the quality of photographs for all slots on PARI.
You can also submit very brief video clips to go with – and be embedded in – an article. See the Video Guidelines for more details.
In other words, many of the stories PARI publishes will be truly multi-media and we would like you to approach a subject in that framework.
All text articles on PARI – without exception – carry photographs. In a photo story, however, the number of photos can be more and they are sequenced as a narrative. Remember, this format is aimed at telling a visuals-enabled story.
Ideally, a photo story should have around 10-12 images. Any more can get unwieldy online.
A photo story requires an introduction – that is, a couple of opening paragraphs, of up to 150 words. In his format, because the images and text combine to tell a story, the total word length should ideally not exceed 800 words.
Please also send brief captions for the photos in such stories. Photo stories can also be accompanied by a photo album if you have more than 10-12 very good images.
It has less text than a photo story, primarily an introduction, captions and perhaps a winding-up paragraph. It can have 12-15 photographs, with captions not exceeding 50 words each. In a photo essay, the captions themselves are the main text. The total word length should ideally not exceed 500.
In addition to being embedded in a full-length feature or photo story, this ‘slideshow’ can also be a standalone album, with the number of images ranging from 3 to 15. Each photo requires a brief caption.
This one – The amazing spiderwoman – has seven.
The category Musafir on PARI refers to more than just a traveller. It suggests a worldly-wise observer. These are stories from the road. They can be light-hearted, funny or even have very serious content narrated with a light touch. And while direct quotes are still required, the author’s voice can come in a lot more than in the other formats. A Musafir story can be as short as 300 words, or as long as a full-length feature. The number of photos will vary according to the length of the article – it can even be a single picture or up to a maximum of 8.
If research holds your interest, take a look at our Resources section.
The Resources section is PARI’s effort at building a library of documents, studies, reports and even books, online. To make navigation of the library easier, we summarise the report’s focus. We also give these details: the report’s origin, its authors and details of publication. And we carry 5-10 ‘factoids’ from the contents, which let readers figure out whether this is a report they wish to study in detail.
Contributors can send in full soft copy (that is, in electronic form) reports with a synopsis and factoids, or even identify such material in the public domain for us to add to the PARI Resources section. For an example of a summary/ factoids, see Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector
Please note that we carry reports that are official, or independent and non-government but credible and authentic. The bulk of what we carry will perforce be government reports because that is where officialdom places data on record. Census, NSSO, central and state ministry reports, official studies and surveys, reports of the United Nations and other established international bodies and the like. We do, though, seek to also carry independent reports that are credible and serious, as we have with the reports on the threat to journalists and human rights in Bastar.
You can send in photos for PARI’s FACES endeavour – an ambitious attempt to create a facial map of the most diverse societies on earth, those across rural India. From every single district (and each block of every district) we aim to put up portraits of at least one adult male, one adult female and one child or adolescent. Anyone can take part in it provided the photograph is good enough. It is also very important that the image you send in is hi-resolution, ideally portrait orientation, and accompanied by the details of the person in the picture.
These are the details we need:
Name: (please give the full name of the person in the photo; for example, if the name is Roshan Nalaband, use this name in full, instead of just 'Roshan')
Occupation: (examples: farmer / labourer / teacher / tailor). If the FACE is that of a child please try giving us the occupation of the parent(s). If the child goes to school, please say ‘Student’ next to occupation and also state that of her/his parents.
Block: (or any of these: tehsil/ taluka/ mandal/ revenue division)
Date: (the date the photo was taken; for example, June 26, 2016)
Camera: (i.e. the model of the camera used to take the shot).
See Photo Guidelines for more on the quality of photographs on PARI.
PARI carries video clips, video stories and documentaries. If we get short but very effective video clips along with a text story, we try to embed it within the text.
Or even carry it by itself in Little Takes
Videos that are standalone stories are also welcome, as are documentaries.
To send us any of these, please see the more detailed Video Guidelines.
In this format, 10-14 photographs are linked by the photographer’s audio captions. These are not necessarily the same as the written captions the photographer provides, but more personalised experiences. Take a look at this Talking Album, The koilawallahs of Godda
Take care to see the audio quality of the captions is good and clear. Note that the first and last audio captions can be slightly longer – up to 40 seconds each – as those will introduce and wind up the story. The remaining captions should not exceed 20-25 seconds. In all, a Talking Album should not exceed six minutes – and can be much shorter.
Things we wear:
The rural in the urban, Rural sports, Environment: You can also take pictures for these or a host of other subjects on PARI – almost anything you'd like to contribute to – provided the quality is good and the piece falls within our mandate. Visit Categories on PARI’s website for more details and to get a better idea of these possibilities.
Essential Writing Requirements
These apply to all formats, but especially for text articles. In the stories you send in on rural Indians, we need:
Use the full names of people, to the best extent possible, and especially in the first instance. For example: Meeraman Chawda instead of only Meeramanbhai.
Always fully id a new person and their location, age (if relevant) and organisation/ designation (if any). For example: Mahendra Shewala, deputy sarpanch of Uruli Devachi, has eight acres of land on which he grows vegetables and jowar, bajra and other grains.
All these details need not be clustered in one paragraph but they should be available in your article.
At times, the author may have done interviews under circumstances (for example, in a train, with a large group of people) where it was not possible to ask for and note all the full names. Sometimes, the person being quoted may not want their full name to be used. But in many instances, authors forget to ask for the full names. We will, at all times, aim to use the full names of the people featured on PARI.
Name of the village(s), block (if available), district and state the story is from. For example: Bhuri Kallu lives on her own in the village of Bharkurra, in the district of Chitrakoot in south-eastern Uttar Pradesh.
What dominates, and should be foregrounded, are the voices of everyday rural people, not those of the writers or filmmakers. The latter bring perspective, readability/viewability, and more to the material. But it’s the voices and faces of everyday rural people that tell the story. After all, it's their story. Never lose sight of this. What PARI journalists and writers do falls into the art of storytelling, something that has been declining fast in journalism.
The writer is something of a fly on the wall. At times that isn't entirely possible, but strive for it. We do not want people to scour the interior and then declaim with their own emotions rather than the stories people have to tell them.
In the video films too, as in stories, we prefer that the filmmaker is invisible. If there are questions the filmmaker asks that get recorded on the film, try editing them out so that the viewer only sees the subject of the film doing the narration. If there is something you absolutely have to say in a story or film that must be told, we urge you to use the ‘blackboard’ method. See the Video Guidelines for more on this.
Avoid centrally focussing on NGOs or ‘change-maker’ outsiders:
We cannot emphasise strongly enough that our stories must centre on everyday people. Too many ‘rural’ stories end up being more about charismatic individuals from urban areas who have ‘sacrificed’ a lucrative career to work in the countryside. Or about NGOs that have supposedly achieved a ‘silent revolution’ in rural India. We recognise that such individuals do exist and sometimes make a valuable contribution. And that there are some NGOs that do fine work. They are part of the rural scene, they can appear in stories – but they cannot be our focus. That focus remains the everyday lives of everyday people.
We would also like to avoid conflict of interests – as can happen when an activist employed by an NGO or like organisation sends in stories extolling the institution that pays his or her salary. We’re looking for stories, not puff pieces.
Context and explanation:
These are necessary for telling a more complete story. For instance, an author states that the main character in a story is unable to make ends meet, but provides no details, though these might be in his/her notes, or can be otherwise accessed. Try getting a little more about actually making ends meet at home. What does the husband bring in? How much does the woman earn? Do the kids go to school? What do they jointly pull in, and how much of it is spent on what?
Even a paragraph would be fine: what does the writer find in the kitchen, for instance, or what does she say are the essentials they just cannot give the children.
Or, for example, the story might be of a fisherwoman struggling to survive. The article would be much richer if her personal experience could be a window to the larger world of fisherwomen in that region. This might involve talking to others from the same occupation. However, this is more desirable than mandatory – at times a standalone story can work.
Linkages: Even if a story is about a single family or individual, you can locate that against a larger canvas. For instance, if an article is about farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and looks at a particular family or farmer, it can mention that this state has seen 63,000 farmers take their own lives in the past two decades.
Likewise, even if the story is tightly focused on an individual or family, you can use a quote from others (neighbours, officials, anyone else relevant to the topic). Or use data from a larger level – for instance try bringing in malnutrition figures (district, state or national, whichever is relevant) in a story exploring a hunger death.
All numerical data cited in the article must be checked against reliable or government sources (to the extent possible). For instance, if an article mentions the year a report was published, the author must re-verify that year online.
For example: An Indian Banks Association report of 2008 states….
– Here, you can verify online for IBA reports of that year.
We will need the online sources of all the meta data/official data cited – the author can give the url at which our editors can re-verify the numbers. If the author has referred to a hardcopy, he/she should ideally give the reference details (title; author/s; date; place of publication) along with the article.
In the published article on PARI, these details will not be used as full formal references, the editor will delete them. They are required only for fact-checking by the editor. But a general reference/source can (and should) still be maintained within the text when citing data.
We expect the writer to be the first fact-checker. That is, to check the authenticity of what they cite as facts in the story. Often a lot of time is lost at the editing end – and slows down publication – because the writer has not taken care to do this.
For example: As the Socio Economic and Caste Census data show, in only 8 per cent of rural households does the highest earning member make more than Rs. 10,000 a month. See, for example, The Benz and the Banjara
We need author bios of no more than two lines. For example: Jaideep Hardikar is a Nagpur-based journalist working with The Telegraph, Kolkata.
Were the photos taken by the author or by someone else? Please give the names and bios of all the photographers.
If you are proposing to send a story to PARI that you have also pitched to other publications, it is important you let us know about it. Otherwise, it could give rise to needless and complicated situations.
Our approval of a pitch is not a guarantee of publication. Simply put, we may like an idea and say, yes, explore it. Whether we publish the story that emerges depends on how good it is, not on how good the idea was.
Similarly, if you have sent a story to PARI and also simultaneously sent it to another publication, let us know. We are open to carrying reprints with full attribution– but we need to be informed.
Keep sentences short – around 30-35 words or less – generally, as a norm, not as a rule.
Retain direct quotes and the active voice as much as possible. Don‘t paraphrase or re-word a quotation if in the process the voice or flavour get lost. But keep quotes short too, unless necessary otherwise.
The lead: There’s no overstating the importance of the ‘lead’ – the first paragraph (or two) that opens your story for the reader. How good, how gripping/startling/intriguing the lead is will determine whether readers actually go through the whole piece. A poor lead will make them switch off.
Do ensure that the article has structural coherence and flow – so make a point, then move on to the next; cluster, rather than disperse. Some writing goes all over the place and the main content gets buried in what might actually be a good or even excellent story.
Details and colour: Flesh out characters with some details. Example:
We go to Nitai’s small and cramped house, where he stores honey in aluminium containers and cans on the floor.
Instead of: We go to Nitai’s house, where he stores honey in containers.
Add some colour. For example: Her humour softens the memories of an impoverished childhood. “My father woke us up one night. I was not even 10. He said the moon was full and white and we could harvest in its light.”
Or this: Long-distance runner Lalita Babar, 25, bought her first pair of shoes after she was prevented from running barefoot at a national track event in 2005..... “If there were days my parents went hungry so that my stamina wasn’t compromised upon, I did not know,” said Babar, the oldest of four siblings.
Note that the very first few words “running barefoot” tells us something about the person, suggests a background of real poverty. Her parents going hungry adds to it. That she was the oldest of four siblings gives us a picture of the person in context of her family.
You can send us material through the PARI Content Upload Form
If for some reason, you are unable to use the Content Upload Form, you could send in your articles and photos by mail: contact [at the rate of] ruralindiaonline [dot] org
Please upload/ send the hi-res photos separately from the text, even in the same mail. It would be best if you can upload them on Google drive or send them through Wetransfer. Do not paste those on to your text articles – they make very heavy mails and block up mailboxes.
You can indeed indicate where the photos should ideally be positioned in your story by: (a) pasting very small thumbnails of the photos with provisional captions in the Word file of the article
or (b) send the Word file of the article with no photos at all – only indicating their provisional placement and captions
Please title your Word files. There is inevitably a lot of back and forth between the author and PARI’s editors. As revisions are made and new drafts are created, this can get very confusing. So it makes sense each time to add:
(a) your initials
(b) 2-3 words about the topic of the story (for example: Odisha migration)
(c) the date the file is being mailed (for example: 10Oct16) and
(d) as a V1, V2, etc. (for version numbers, as they change in the back and forth).
For example: PST_Odisha migration_10Oct16_V1
In the writing/editing process, it may be useful to work in Track mode.
PARI attaches great importance to the visual. And almost no story or feature or format in PARI – with the exception of Resources – goes up without a high-quality image. So please send us at least 4-6 high resolution photos with each article submitted. That’s the minimum. You can send in more for photo stories, photo essays and photo albums. We will choose from those.
It is important that you send us a mix of horizontal and vertical images.
You can also send us photographs independent of full-text articles for photo essays, photo albums, Talking Albums, FACES, or just pictures documenting some aspect of rural life, work, environment, culture and more. (See Section 1 of these guidelines).
Please send us the basic details we need to know about a photograph before we can put it up on the site. We cannot emphasise how important this is.
Even if it is not for an article, please try and write a paragraph or two about the image so that we get the details and the context. All the details might not be used on PARI, but are vital for the editors to know. They are also important from an archival point of view.
It is frustrating to get a brilliant image with no details about the location – the name of the village, block and district. This seriously harms the chance of a photograph being accepted and published. We’d hate for that to happen.
If there is a person at its centre, what is his or her full name? Many photographers, while taking pictures of rural Indians, do not take the trouble to record their full name. Sometimes, they do not record their names at all. Now obviously, for a picture of a group of people it might not be possible to get everybody’s name. But it is possible to get those of the individual(s) at the centre of that story/album/photo.
Try telling us what it is they do. Are they agricultural labourers, farmers, home makers, carpenters, weavers – or other occupations? Tell us when (day, month, year) the photo was taken, by whom, and on what model of camera.
If there is something unique in the photo – a hat, a necklace, an instrument, an agricultural tool, etc. – please give us the correct name of the item.
It is extremely important for PARI that the images we carry are taken with the consent of those in the picture. This may not apply to crowd scenes, pictures taken at a marketplace or while passing by in a bus or car, but does apply firmly to every picture where individuals are being consciously recorded by the photographer.
PARI will not carry any photo or image that violates the dignity of the person or people in it.
Image quality: All photographs published on PARI have to ideally meet these requirements:
(i) RAW format: Always shoot in the camera’s RAW format. This is an uncompressed file that will have all the image data. It then becomes easier to tweak in Photoshop. (This format will not open in all basic photo editing software).
For example, if I have a Canon 5D MKII professional DSLR, my RAW file opens in Picasa 184.108.40.206 for Mac. I do some basic corrections on it, and it then saves as a .jpg file.
Always do a ‘Save As’ so that you do not overwrite your original image, which is in a higher resolution.
(ii) If your camera allows, set colour space to aRGB. It has a wider colour gamut. It can later be converted to sRGB for the web. which has a smaller gamut.
(iii) Resolution and photo files: Please send the images as hi res JPG files, as much as possible. When PARI works on these, we can downsize the image after correction. This means that the image should be sent at 300dpi. Dots per inch (DPI or dpi) is a technical measure of spatial printing or video dot density, in particular the number of individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of 1 inch (2.54 cm). Some cameras will only allow hi res images up to 180dpi. Even that is usually fine. As long as the images that are sent are reasonably hi res.
(iv) JPG format: This is a compressed format and doesn’t contain all the data that a RAW image does. If you shoot in JPG, choose the highest quality.
(v) PARI resizes images for the web like this:
Horizontal images – 1400 pixels on the long side at 72dpi
Vertical images – 1120 pixels on the long side at 72dpi
(vi) File size: Each photo must be a maximum of 1.5 mb but the average should ideally be around 800kb per image and not over 10mb for an article with 7-8 photographs.
(vii) Keep the file number, for example: MG_2826.jpg.
(viii) Send us a brief caption with each photo, clearly identifying the place/ person/ item/ activity in that image.
Types of videos on PARI:
Broadly, there are five kinds of video material PARI tries to archive:
(i) Outstanding films of the kind some of our Fellows have made. See:
(ii) Odd and curious and sometimes fun little clips which also teach us something. These can be picked up while on travel.
For example, a professional, drum-beating announcer or Dawandi telling people that a panchayat meeting is to be held on a certain date.
Or children singing at a village school, See, for instance, the Potato Song
Or something new, novel, unusual, like girls playing the mridangam in A different kind of drumbeat
Some of these videos would fit very well in PARI’s Musafir category, but can also be used elsewhere on the site.
(iii) Archival documentation: This is not to be viewed with the sensibility of good cinema or documentary. But as a clip someone might look at in the Archive 30 years from now and know: this was the life of a woman garbage collector (in her words) of another era.
The film Virodh is an example of this category – of how it records the lives of everyday people.
(iv) Then there are the short videos embedded within text stories.
Like the one in Small farmer, big heart, miracle bike. Here, the reader/viewer gets to see the central character and narrator of the text story as a living, breathing person. It can be very important in building empathy with the subject and story. This one is less than 60 seconds.
A video within a story can also go up to three minutes or so. As in the case of Clouds of uncertainty
And sometimes, the embedded video can even be a little longer, up to six minutes, but at that length, it must be very relevant to the story. See, for example, ‘Captain Elder Brother’ and the whirlwind army
(v) A fifth category that PARI published less often, but is very important from an archival point of view is this: we digitise an entire photo exhibition and experiment with multimedia on a larger scale.
Like our online photo exhibition Visible Work, Invisible Women. Here, we digitised the exhibition of 10 panels. Each panel already had substantive text; we made a page of each and put in the relevant, original photos.
And we added a two minute video to each panel as a live audience walked around it. The result is a unique, full multi-media experience. In the two-minute videos, you see an audience walking around the exhibit, accompanied only by the photographer’s voice. Below the video is the panel with pictures laid out in roughly the same sequence as they appear in the physical exhibit. The text, which stands separately in the physical version, is interspersed between pictures on the digitised version. The visitor gets audio, video, still photo, and text, with each dimension adding to the other.
Videos on PARI can be as short as 10 seconds. Usually, they’re between 3 to 10 minutes. Some go up to 14-15 minutes. A few really compelling ones go up to 20 minutes. The longest one we’ve generated is 30 minutes. But please do not aim for that or higher without first consulting us and explaining the compulsions for a greater length. Only full documentaries should exceed 15 minutes.
For very small fun or curious clips (see Types of videos on PARI), between 30 seconds and three minutes. For those to be embedded in text stories, aim for 60 seconds to three minutes, five minutes maximum. For anything you want to do that might be longer than 15-20 minutes, talk to us first. Please send in a couple of still photos.
For PARI, it is extremely important that the voices of ordinary people dominate our films and articles. On the whole, we prefer that the filmmaker remain invisible. If you are making a film on a woman agricultural labourer, she should be seen and heard through the story, not you. We prefer not to have long, droning commentaries by the filmmaker passing for narrative. We understand you’ve got to do the interviews, but after that try making your film in a way that you edit yourself out of it and let the focus be totally on the everyday people in it. A film that is all about the voice of the filmmaker with little but affirmative nods and words from the people in it – that won’t go up on PARI. Yes, sometimes a question thrown by you might have to be heard. But keep that to a minimum – and make sure you’re not seen.
If there is something you have to say in a story or film that must be told, use the ‘blackboard method’ . For a better idea of this, we urge you to see Kali, the dancer and his dreams or Drums, bagpipes and Choliya dance.
This is very important and for those who add music tracks to their videos. Use tracks that are completely relevant to, or part of, the subject, location and content of your video. If the film is on a weaver in Odisha, try using the music of that particular region, perhaps of the weaver community themselves. Please do not pick up anything from the internet that appeals to you but does not go well with the video’s subject and content. It’s weird to have Yanni in the background of a film on potters in Rajasthan!
IMPORTANT: To the extent possible please use music that is not protected by copyright in any way. If you do use music that comes under any kind of copyright clearly inform us. In all instances send us the source of the music used, even if it is from a free internet database.
PARI has a different set of protocols for film credits. If you are making a film on a potter, the very first (and major) credit (for the story and narration) goes to the central character(s) of that film. For example, the potter Budhadeb Kumbharkar in Baked Earth
The second and third lines could credit those in his family or in the village(s) who helped the most in making the film. After this, the filmmaker/director’s credit appears. This should be followed by all the others – editing, sound, music and so on. You can always look up the credits of any of the films on PARI to get the right idea. Send us provisional credits even while you are finalising the film.
We need two versions of every video you submit – one with subtitles, one without. Both are important. It is also very important that you send us the subtitles even as you are editing or reworking the film on PARI’s request. While you are working on the film, we’ll be editing the subtitles. We’d like to have subtitles along with the time (minute: second) each line should appear in the film. We can send you a sample of such a file on request.
Please try not to embed any text into the video (the version without subtitles) that you send us. It complicates any process of editing or correction.
The subtitles file that you send us should be in the following format (the text below is only an example):
00:00:15,520 --> 00:00:20,380
My name is Ramchandra Sripati Lad
00:00:20,380 --> 00:00:25,000
I was known to everyone as ‘Captain Bhau’
00:00:28,140 --> 00:00:32,540
We were [very active] during the Quit India movement of 1942
Send us any ‘blackboards’ or text you intend to put into the film (do see the examples in 6.3 above). We’ll edit these too. It’s sad if a fine film is marred by text filled with wrong words, badly-spelt names and worse.
Visual and audio clarity:
Our films are edited by skilled volunteer editors, but they are hogtied if the original material lacks visual and audio clarity. For audio, use a good external mike to ensure quality. If the films are made on ordinary point and shoot DSCs, or on cell phones, you are more likely to need better sound. Try using an external mike, or placing a small digital audio recorder very close to your subject, but out of camera sight. If the camera’s audio track proves unsatisfactory, you can sync the two audio tracks you have. We can try and help you with that.
The videos you send to PARI should ideally be in mp4 format.
Give us a couple of paragraphs on what the film is about, a brief context and explanation. This will go up on the PARI page that features your film. See, for example, Jahangir’s story
For some films, this text can go up to 500 words, depending on the text material you have. And it can also be accompanied by photographs (with brief captions). See Ima Keithel: every day is women’s day
Please also send still photos of the subject/s of your video. These usually go up with the website text on PARI. Otherwise we’d have to use a screenshot, and that often does not have the desired quality. Send us 3-4 still photos to choose from, and ensure that at least two of them are horizontal images
Finally, we need a bio, two lines will do, don’t make it more than three.