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Frequently asked questions about the NSS News
by Dave Bunnell, NSS News editor

What's the hardest part of being the News editor?

Probably the same thing most grotto newsletters editors would say: keeping a steady supply of good articles for the magazine. It's important to be persistent in asking for material. A lot of stuff gets run because I know someone has done something newsworthy and I ask them to write it up. But for the most part, material comes in unsolicited and I am thankful that we have such an active and productive membership base.

Every once in a while it's time to start on an issue and there are no features. What I try to do is keep an article I can write on my own on the back burner and use that in emergencies. Of course, that requires that I go regular expeditions! My standing joke is that we will have another issue devoted to sea caves if people don't send me enough stuff…

How do you decide what gets used in the News?

Most of the material that is submitted for the News gets used. A general rule of thumb is: Is this of national interest? The few things rejected include things that are basically just trip reports, or that seem too technical, or seem to demonstrate lack of concern for cave conservation. Ideally I like to have at least one or two exploration articles in an issue, with map(s) and photos.

How long does it take from the time I send something in, until it appears in the News?

These days there is not usually a backlog of material, so material is often used in the very next issue, or sometimes the following issue. The shortest turnaround would be about six weeks, e.g., you send it in mid-October and it appears in the December issue. Material that is not “news,” such as poems, fiction, or random photos, may be kept for much longer and used to “fill in” an issue when I have a page here or there to fill.

I e-mailed something for the News but I never saw it in print. Do you tell people if you're not going to use their stuff?

It is my policy to acknowledge EVERYTHING sent for the News , whether a small calendar listing or a feature article. I'll usually tell you when I'm going to run it, or in rare instances, tell you why I don't want to run it (e.g., your calendar listing is for an event in May and that issue is already in press). If you haven't heard back after a week or so (longer in case I'm away caving) its possible I didn't get it or thought it was spam. SPAM is a major problem for many of us, and the best way to ensure your submission gets through is to put “NSS News” on the subject line. Unless I recognize the sender's name, if there is no subject line (or it says only something uninformative like “hello” or “hi,”) chances are I could miss your submission.

I already wrote up something on my big cave project for my grotto newsletter. Can it run in the News as well?

Yes! In fact, I sometimes see things in grotto newsletters and end up asking the author if it can run in the News. This gives the opportunity to print your pictures with higher resolution (and maybe in color!) than most newsletters offer.

Why are there so many articles on foreign caves? I'd rather read about caves in the U.S.A.

The News can only draw on what members (and others) submit. If you know someone who's done something newsworthy in a U.S. cave, please encourage them to submit something for the News . Many folks are unwilling to publicize their caving projects for many reasons: conservation, landowner concerns, fear of scoopage, etc. People going on foreign caving expeditions generally feel freer to write up their findings, and the News gives them a forum for presenting their results that makes more sense than publishing in a grotto or regional newsletter. Additionally, NSS U.S. International Exploration grants, which fund four or more expeditions a year, requires that an article on the trip be submitted for the News .

How do I submit an article?

You can send it by e-mail to me (dbunnell@caltel.com ) or on a disk via snail mail. There are some style guidelines on the NSS News web site (www.caves.org/pub/nssnews/style.html ), and also information about file formats for photos, maps, etc. Photos accompanying articles are often e-mailed too, unless there are lots of them (say, more than 6 mb worth), in which case mailing a CD may be preferable.

How long can an article be?

I don't like to place any firm limits on this. An interesting article can be pages and pages, but something exceeding a couple of pages really needs to have some photos or illustrations to accompany it (there are about 8,000 characters+spaces on a News page).

My photos aren't all that good but I have a good story to tell. Will it get rejected if the photos don't meet your standards?

We all like to see good photos in the News , but it's certainly no requirement that your photos all be salon winners. I can often do a lot to help photos out in Photoshop (cropping, lightening all or part of them up, sharpening them, increasing the contrast, etc.). Even a poor photo can add something to a story, and that becomes the criterion for whether an otherwise marginal photo is run.

How big do my digital photos need to be, especially for a cover shot?

Photos are set at 300 pixels per inch for printing in the News. That means a shot that prints two columns wide (about 5 inches) needs to be about 1500 pixels long, for one column, 700 pixels wide. A cover shot is usually 9.5 to 10 inches long, so I need a 3000-pixel-long image, at least a 6 mp. However, I can cheat a little and get good covers with 5 mp images, around 2500 pixels long.

Can you work with slides or prints?

Either. I have top-notch transparency and flatbed scanners. I can scan negatives as well, which often gives better results than machine prints made from them.

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