Policy Staff Writer at Ballotpedia

Remote
Ballotpedia

Policy Staff Writer (Remote)

  • Policy Team
  • Full time

Ballotpedia is a team of fast learners who are eager to work hard to make the world a better place. We believe the world would be a better place if every voter cast an informed vote in every election in which he or she is eligible to vote. We work to present the available information about elections, candidates, judges, ballot measures, public policy and more in a way that enables our readers to vote with confidence and to act as engaged citizens outside of the polling booth.

Ballotpedia readers, like Ballotpedia staff, are special people. And in 2016, we got curious enough about what made our readers special to commission an in-depth study to answer that question. Here’s an excerpt from the conclusion:

Readers are characterized by their decision to run toward knowledge, instead of retreating. This sense of “onward” characterizes the Ballotpedia readers—they recognized a problem with the media they had been consuming and sought out a different way.

Readers have found and continue to find our articles in droves. It turns out there is an unclaimed audience out there—people who want straightforward facts about political issues, and are willing to read at length instead of just scanning the headlines.

We’re discovering “If you build it, they will come” applies to our work engaging and informing voters: our readers come to our neutral oasis in growing numbers; by 2016, fully 20 percent of American voters read one or more of Ballotpedia’s 300,000+ encyclopedic articles in the six weeks leading up to election day. Mostly, they came from Google. Google has always loved our detailed, well-sourced articles, because their algorithm is excellent at figuring out what their searchers are after.

That search engine dominance got us past one BILLION lifetime pageviews in September 2018. Building on that success, we were the 77th most-visited website in the U.S. during the month surrounding the November 2020 general election.

We scarcely had an email list before 2016. We now have hundreds of thousands of subscribers on more than a dozen separate lists. We are working in numerous ways to help put our neutral information in front of people at the times when they most need it. We firmly believe that our readers, and the mindset we help them cultivate, are essential, as too many others in our industry are fighting to get us all addicted to sensational clickbait headlines and the irrational decisions they foster.

And, with all that, we’re just getting started, knowing that the opportunities and growth ahead are limitless. If this is a mission you’d be willing to work hard to achieve, and if this is a team you’d be willing to work hard with, join us.

The Position

Ballotpedia is seeking a full-time Staff Writer to join our Policy Team. Ballotpedia’s Policy Team researches, curates, and neutrally presents the basic facts, key terms, and core arguments surrounding many different important public policy debates in America. As a Policy Staff Writer, you will be part of a team helping Ballotpedia focus on becoming a complete Encyclopedia of American Politics. As we seek to grow our coverage areas of different public policy verticals and close the political information gap, you will strive to understand, and in turn, help our readers understand, the true nature of complex policy debates. This may include building indices of key arguments for an issue on all sides of the political spectrum or participating in large, 50-state level research projects on policy areas in question.

Applicants should know that the day-to-day work typically feels more like data entry than journalism. Ballotpedia has a unique production model. In this role, you won’t be writing long-form white paper drafts. Instead you will be researching, culminating and presenting information in spreadsheets, databases and other unique formats.

To succeed at Ballotpedia, you must be self-aware and personally invested in constant improvement. You must have a passion for creating a delightful experience for Ballotpedia’s readers and donors, and you must strive to develop expertise in your subject and the inner workings of your project.

Responsibilities

As Policy Staff Writer, you will be:

  • Generating content about complex topics in a neutral, clear, and concise manner
  • Reading as much as possible about the policy coverage areas and becoming a content expert in the coverage areas
  • Creating and editing articles on noteworthy and upcoming court cases, laws, executive orders, key terms, influencers, and scholarly work related to our policy coverage areas
  • Identifying and curating arguments for and against proposed policy changes
  • Identifying and curating proposed policy reforms
  • Tracking news events to keep policy coverage up to date
  • Participating in recurring team book clubs
  • Efficiently reading scholarly work with an eye to what’s missing in our related content, and finding a way to incorporate that into our content
  • Understanding which content requires standardization and which requires originality
  • Finding the most compelling feature of a story and promoting it with a strong headline
  • Contributing ideas to a monthly newsletter
  • Drafting a recurring newsletter, incorporating feedback as needed
  • Producing educational outreach opportunities, including Learning Journeys and Learning Expeditions
  • Contributing to topical webinars on breaking news related to the topic
  • Proofreading content effectively, efficiently, and consistently
  • Analyzing court decisions and legislation across the 50 states to identify policy trends and developments

Skills

What are the five most important characteristics for a Policy Staff Writer?

  • They learn quickly and adjust to changes easily. They thrive in a world of constant iteration and feed into the cycle instead of slowing it down.
  • They enjoy going deep into a subject. They don’t feel satisfied to stop simply when the bases have been covered. They are voraciously curious about the subject matter.
  • They can look at our content from different points of view. They understand how customers with different needs or priorities would perceive our content.
  • They enjoy organizing their own lives and the world around them. They maintain orderly habits and perceive external disorder as an opportunity to innovate and improve.
  • They are capable of detaching themselves from their writing and applying a high degree of critical scrutiny to their work. They constantly self-edit and have personal standards of quality, attention to detail, and accuracy that are unshakable.

An effective Policy Staff Writer will:

  • Interact with customers and media in a professional, helpful, and pleasant manner
  • Use and generate complex procedure checklist documentation to perform key tasks
  • Edit content from multiple perspectives to unearth new improvement opportunities
  • Learn and master Ballotpedia’s taxonomy of bias
  • Prepare for and attending annual bias training
  • Learn from and applying feedback given by others, such as in Master Classes
  • Identify trends in policy developments that span multiple areas
  • Work with breaking news, including having an eye for developing stories
  • Apply proper judgment when monitoring news to know which stories merit coverage
  • Conduct research efficiently and seeking out the best possible sources
  • Collaborate professionally and effectively with coworkers and external partners
  • Host and lead webinars and draft presentations, incorporating feedback in preparation
  • Innovate to improve work processes and to enhance content quality
  • Think creatively beyond standard article components to include additional content
  • Use and master complex tools such as templates and spreadsheets
  • Understand and participate in internal processes such as BP Flex and Scrum
  • Learn and master Ballotpedia’s Style Guide (which is based on the AP Stylebook)
  • Fix error assignments within 24 hours
  • Travel to and attend related events, as needed (about 5% of the time)

Environment

The Policy Staff Writer will work remotely from his or her home location. All Ballotpedia staff work remotely. To join Ballotpedia, you must have a computer with Internet access. Ballotpedia uses the Google Suite (Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, and more), Slack, and Asana to accomplish our goals. Some familiarity with the Google Suite, Slack, and Asana are helpful.

Ballotpedia has a flexible work environment in which every employee is 100% accountable to the results and 100% autonomous over their time. Each employee will be oriented to the principles of Ballotpedia’s flexible environment during new employee training.

Compensation

The starting pay range for the Policy Staff Writer is $36,000-$50,000, and commensurate with experience.

In addition to salary, Ballotpedia offers bonuses based on performance and a $7,000 annual benefits stipend, which may be used to pay for a full benefits package, including health, vision, and dental insurance; retirement accounts; and more. If benefits are not elected, the $7,000 stipend is taxed as regular income and added to salary.

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