GUEST COL  styleheadline
for drafting a guest 
"Faith and Beliefs" column 
for preparing material 
to be incorporated into a column

0. DISCLAIMER:The column began in 1994 and runs each Wednesday, but budgetary or policy changes could end it at any time. I am not a member of The Star staff; I am a "repeat free-lance" writer.

1. Thank you for agreeing to draft a guest column for the "Faiths and Beliefs" space in the Wednesday Kansas City Star or for providing me with your material to acknowledge and include in my column.

2. The column often runs about 400 words, in 10 to 12 short paragraphs, depending on ad space and headline lay-out. Occasionally the column is severely cut, depending on ad space, placement, and shape. I have no control over the final edit, headlines, or trims.

2a. If I've sent you some specific questions, I'd usually welcome brief answers, but if I have any concern at all as I put the column together, I'll send a draft to you. Of course you can rearrange the order of the questions, combine, reword them or whatever you like, and answer questions you wish I had asked. 

3. Please send me a sentence or two that I can adapt to identify you as you wish to be identified in the column.

4. Please draft your material to run about 400 words or more. I'm fairly good at editing down from a longer text. I write to space, not word-count, so polish is not required at this early stage. I am responsible for what is submitted to The Star, and I will prepare your material with the proper formatting. Don't count words too carefully; I'll help prune if necessary. If advisable, I will mark it up and send it back to you for your comments. Space is the demon that drives me to put words in your mouth, conflate, reduce, summarize, lose nuance, etc. But I will do this only with your cooperation. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions as you prepare your text.

4. See notes on style below. Please remember this is a popular, rather than academic, style. But if you use factual material, I'll need to have citations to present to my editor.

5. Please send plain text in an email, not as an attachment. Send your material to me. The best way is email:  vern@cres.org.

6. The Star often wants the column to end with my personal reflection on the material, and I'll consult with you about that if I have any concerns.

7. Unless we've agreed on a deadline, there is no rush; but whenever you are ready, I will schedule the column. The current deadline for the column is normally Thursday morning at 8 am for publication the following Wednesday in The Star's FYI section. (Holidays can affect this schedule.) If I've asked for your consent for the edited version, please phone or email me before then.

8. For examples of past columns, visit http://www.cres.org/star  and browse from the index.

9. Again, thank you. Your contribution will help Kansas Citians understand the diversity and depth of religious life among us. I think this is important. 


the "Faith and Beliefs" column
This was the 900th in the series,
published 2011 Dec 14

Faith & Beliefs @ 900

Q. Why are you interviewing yourself?

     A. This is the 900th Wednesday for the “Faith and Beliefs” column and some questions need answers.

     Who are you?

     Readers have labeled me everything from an atheist to a fundamentalist believer. Some people mistakenly think because I present this or that  view in a particular column, I must agree with it.
     My doctoral work at the University of Chicago, travel in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East, friendships with local folks of every faith, parish ministry, seminary teaching and a life-long interest in the sciences make me curious, and admiring of those who ask questions about the meaning of life and how to live with one another. 

     Who are your readers?

     The guy behind the parts counter at the auto dealership, the seminary professor, the young bride, the folks in minority faiths and atheists — I like to hear from all sorts of people, whether they approve or condemn what I write. 

     You discuss art, sports, music, literature, film, business, science, civic issues and other topics. You range from the beginning of time to the latest thing. What principles guide you in including them in a column on religion?

     Two. First, my professor, Mircea Eliade, believed we are called “to decipher and explicate every kind of encounter with the sacred, from prehistory to our own day.” He thought that secular phenomena arise from some obscuring of the sacred, cracks in our sense of the whole, the holy. I try to point that out as a step toward putting things together.
     Second, I usually write with a local focus, although sometimes these columns are picked up by other publications. I was surprised when The Interfaith Observer asked to reprint a recent column that listed three things we learned about how to create a successful interfaith conference in Kansas City.

     What column aroused the most responses?

     When I complained about the anti-Semitism, the over-the-top violence and the crude penal theory of atonement in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” the emails were overwhelming. 

     Do you ever run out of things to write about? How do you pick your subjects?

     Each week I see at least a dozen topic possibilities. I ask myself, “What do my readers need to think about and am I prepared to present it?” — rather like the pastor planning sermons based on what the congregation needs rather than on one’s own interest. As I try to gauge what my readers would find helpful, I’m always grateful for suggestions. 



1. STATUS. The Star does not ordinarily use the title "Dr." -- even with physicians. Concerning academic degrees for scholars and clergy, here is guidance from the Religion Stylebook: "For all faiths, the title Dr. is generally not used before the names of scholars or clergy who hold academic doctorates. If the person’s academic credentials are important to the story, it is better to give specifics, as in Jane Doe, who holds a doctorate in systematic theology, led the discussion." -- religionstylebook.org/titles.php.
However, designations such as the Rev. FirstName Lastname and the Very Rev. FirstName Lastname and the Rt. Rev. FirstName Lastname are used the first time the name appears. If the person has a position such as Bishop, that may be used instead of the title. Subsequently only the last name is normally used. Noting someone has a Ph.D. in physics likely becomes a doctorate in physics. 

2. SHORT sentences and short paragraphs make for easier newspaper reading. 

3. BOOK TITLES and films are now indicated by quotation marks, not italics. Newspaper and magazine names appear without quotation marks and are no longer italicized.

4. CAPITALIZE Scripture, Resurrection, Seder,  Bible (but biblical), Mass. Use lower case for 17th century,  magisterium, communist, and ground zero; church and cathedral are lower case unless part of a name.

5. DATES. There is no "yesterday" or "tomorrow" in The Star; use dates or day names.

6. ABBREVIATIONS such as p.m. use lower case and periods. Martin Luther King Jr. but no comma. The Saint Paul School of Theology becames the St. Paul School of Theology. The month April is not abbreviated.

7. TELEPHONE numbers are printed as 816-123-4567. WEBSITES include the www but not the http:// -- thus, www.cres.org and the words are website and Web. LOCATIONS are rendered as Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St. if they are in Kansas City, Mo. States do not follow the 2-letter postal abbreviations; Missouri is Mo., not MO, Kansas is Kan. not KS. Kansas City sites north of the river are identified as Kansas City, North, even though this confuses folks with North Kansas City.   URL for other states.

8. PUNCTUATION. The Star eschews the Oxford comma and follows the French style of omitting a comma before the "and" in a series. The Star uses a style of three unspaced periods for elipses: "..." rather than ". . ."

9. LITERARY USAGE may not always be employed. For example, even when used adverbally,  besides (in addition to) may become the preposition beside (along side of);  "besides that idea" may become "beside that idea." Word-order preferences may vary. Thus, Wieman, about whom King wrote . . .  may be transformed into Wieman, whom King wrote about.... 

10. HEADLINE.  I do not determine the headlines. I have no knowledge whether there will be space for a 1-line, 2-line, or 3-line headline, or whether the column will appear in one long vertical space or as two or three or four or five or six horizontal columns across the page. A headline depends on many things, including how much space there is and whether all capitals or lower case letters are used.  Headlines are determined by those who prepare the page, taking into account such things as ad space, story placement, typographical consistency and variety, and other matters that I have no knowledge of or control over. 

11. Other specific word style: dialogue, Freethinker, percent; use more than rather than  over a dozen (or any number) objects.

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