The Black Rock Beacon Newspaper
Email all articles, photos, cartoons, or other content to:
(replace [at] with appropriate symbol).
Email all questions to:
(replace [at] with appropriate symbol).
1. There are two ways to get your articles,
photographs and illustrations into the Black Rock
Beacon: You can ask the editors for assignments or you
can submit something you have done for consideration.
Our ideas are kept on a mystical document called the
Master List of Articles in Development, known,
lovingly as the MLAD. Each article on the MLAD is
assigned a number, and it is VERY IMPORTANT that you
remember the number of any article that is assigned
to you. Write it down, commit it to memory, we get
testy when you don't know the number.
If you’d like pre-playa assignment, send an email to
questions[at]blackrockbeacon.org and tell us a little
about yourself. Writing experience is not necessary,
we’ll work with you.
You can also suggest a topic. If you want to go this
route, try to devise something that will be of
interest to many of Black Rock's citizens. In
practice, articles written solely from your
perspective would be less interesting than those that
include the perspectives of many people. As an
example, another Playa publication once had a fine
article by a writer who brought her dog to Burning Man
in one of the years when this was still possible.
Rather than just talk about her dog, she talked to
several other dog owners and recorded their
experiences as well.
2. There are several general categories of articles:
A. News. A news article describes an important event.
Most news articles will be assigned by the editors and
written on the Playa. Examples: Aliens land at Black
Rock Airport, extreme heat causes spontaneous
combustion. (A newspaper saw: Bad news is good news;
this is not so much because journalists are dour
miserable creatures, though they tend to be, but
because most surprises in life are not pleasant.
Another newspaper saw: Dog bites man is not news; man
bites dog is news; so naked people at Burning Man are
not news for the Black Rock Beacon but an igloo would
Sometimes a news event just happens; If a meteorite
crashes into Center Camp, you go, look, describe what
happened, talk to the people affected, get a photo.
Often, however, a news article describes a contentious
event. In these cases, it is your goal to present all
sides of the story, PLUS some kind of neutral
observations. To take an obvious example, consider
drug arrests. Privately, few of us think these are a
good idea, but we will not portray them as bad or
good. They are just something that happens and that
people might want to read about. So it is just as
important to present the point of view of the police
as it is to chronicle the reactions of those arrested
and of their friends. This has the practical effect of
encouraging the police and other authorities to take
us seriously and tell us their side of the story,
knowing that they will get a fair shake.
B. Features. Often the hardest to write, often the
most memorable. A feature illuminates a topic of
interest. Nothing has to happen in a feature (unlike a
news story), but it is often linked to a specific
event. A feature can also be an interview with
somebody interesting, either because of who they are,
what they have done, or something that happened to
Something common to news and features is that they do
not contain fictional elements. News articles do NOT
contain your opinions; features may do so in an
analytical sort of way.
Features are often investigative and are likely to be
at least partially researched before we hit the Playa
so that facts can be checked and people can be reached
by phone. We are looking got arrive in Black Rock City
with 10 to 15 features ready to be printed.
C. Arts. Some art coverage will be in the form of news
or features about works around the city. But there is
also art criticism, which is meant not to criticize,
though it sometimes does, but to illuminate a work so
that readers can decide if they want to experience it,
and if they do, to have that experience enhanced with
some knowledge of what they are confronting. Here
opinion does come into play, but it must be supported
by reason and must be accessible to those that do not
share your point of view. So this would not do:
At Black Rock City, they play a lot of techno music,
and it sucks.
while this would be okay:
At Black Rock City they play a lot of techno music.
Much of it is repetitive in a machine-like way, which
makes it a suitable for dancing but the rhythm quickly
becomes monotonous and melodies are not a strong
D. Opinion. Opinion articles take several forms. Some
are columns, which present the writer's ideas, usually
a take on some broadly defined subject. Here, it is
mostly opinion, facts are used only to buttress
There may be room for separate opinion pieces, not
part of a column. Your chances of landing some space
for one would be enhanced by picking topics with which
others can identify and which make people think about
something they might not have thought about before.
Opinion pieces are also the place for satire,
hyperbole and the World According to You. But see
above for ways to make your work a good read for all.
E. Fiction. We may have room for outright fiction, but
then again, we may not. Perhaps something along the
lines of Dickens, a 300-word chapter of a story every
day, reacting to current events and people's feelings
about the previous parts?
For any kind of article, 500 words is the maximum
length. If you submit by email, send the article in
the body of the message as plain text (ASCII) and, if
possible, as an attached text file, 1.5 line spacing,
double space between paragraphs; no special tabs or
Please note: Except for fiction and some satirical
opinion pieces, everything you read in the Black Rock
Beacon will be as close to the truth as we can make
it. We’re aiming for gonzo journalism, but it’s still
If you think you will want to write for the Black Rock
Beacon on the Playa, it would be good if you could
bring a computer with you, and even better if that
computer is a Macintosh. The easiest way to get us
stuff would be to burn it onto a CD in an
uncomplicated text format, but we’ll also try to
accommodate Zip disks, wireless transfers and
We will have a limited number of computers in our news
hut that could be used to input stories, and, since
most playa articles will be pretty short, you could
also just grab paper and pencil and scratch it out. If
we decide to use it, we’ll get somebody to keyboard
Required information: whenever you submit an article
to us, we’ll need to know the following about you. Put
it right at the top of your piece:
Playa name (optional)
Where you’re camped (if known)
You can use your real name, playa name or a nom de
plume for your byline, just start your article with
“By BYLINE” so that we know how you want to be
credited. Some people choose to use aliases on the
article but their real names in our staff box, which
is fine as long as you let us know.
Remember this promise: "It's always a definite maybe
that your piece will go to print." The Black Rock
Beacon is a paper-thin, 2-sided 11" x 17" newspaper.
Our editors will be jostling, looking for balance,
continuity, redundancies. If your piece is not printed
on the playa, then we’ll try to get it up on the
website after (or perhaps during) the event.