5.1. Avoiding mistakes (or What not to do)
1. Avoid commercial or propaganda style. You are not selling a product, so you don't need to talk about the marvellous characteristics of a place or project. Avoid the use of adjectives just in one direction, stressing the virtues of the initiative you are talking about. It sounds strained and artificial. Nobody is perfect.
2. Don't use fluffy or cheesy solutions to the issues you are presenting in the city. Social or urban problems don't use to be mellow or simple to solve.
3. Don't do the Wikipedia. Never use an accumulation of cold facts, dates and names. This is not reporting; it is not a description. It is the transformation of those ingredients into a journey made up of curiosity and empathy. Narration is not science.
4. Don't use acronyms, jargon or slang only referred to a specific topic or very technical words. They should be used only if strictly necessary. Remember that your main aim is making your story understandable for everybody, not only those working for a long time in an issue. They already know that way of writing or talking. And they already know that for the outside world that is unreadable.
5. Don’t sentimentalize, don't use a sensationalist mood. The objective is to create emotions that lead to ideas and reflection.
6. Don't be paternalistic, Don't use a condescencing manner, we are seeking for inspiration rather than advice.
7. Don't overuse the media, don't try to superficially create a “wow effect” through the use of technology. It is a powerful, well-constructed, well-structured and well-directed narration what is required.
8. Don't lose yourself into universal topics. Write about specific models, with a concrete time and space. The world’s problems are just too complex and fast-changing. People must learn about credible examples and responses to problems. Those models act empowering citizens, discerning social actors capable of shaping a better society. Ordinary models are required, those showing good practises that can be adapted to different cities in different situations.
9. Don't overclaim. Things are not perfect. Even a good solution is not always a hundred per cent effective. Report what's going on, including different points of view, like that you are not avoiding the different ways of looking at the issue (whether positive or negative).
10. Don't judge. Let the reader draw their own conclusions. If you report what you observe without the use of editorializing adjectives like “amazing” or “terrific,” you can let the reader make their own judgements about the characters’ qualities.
11. Don't focus just on one person, like a hero-like story. Try to focus more on the action, on what happened, or what is going on. The (collective) action is more important than the personal one. The question is how, not who.
12. Don't use texts without visual support. And don't use tiny images. The visual impact is very important. A small or low-quality picture is not contributing to catch the attention or giving real information. At the end might be just noise, not adding value but distracting the attention.