Writer’s Guidelines

Have an Idea for An Article?

We are interested in articles written by or for city officials. Western City does not feature or promote products, services, or companies in editorial copy. For such promotions, please contact the advertising manager. We are currently accepting pitches for:  

  • Features: 1,000 to 1,200-word articles that cover several dimensions of a strategic issue from a statewide or regional perspective. 
  • Local Works: 600 to 800-word articles that highlight the innovative ways cities are building more equitable, vibrant, and sustainable communities. 
  • Legal Notes: 600 to 900-word analyses of major legal issues written for a general audience. 
  • Special to Cal Cities: 600 to 800-word opinion articles on the issues that matter most to city leaders. 

Writing guidelines and article examples are below. Before you begin writing, please contact us to discuss your story idea. You can reach the managing editor at


Western City uses a modified version of AP Style for all articles. When turning in your first draft, be sure to include byline information: the author’s name, title, organization, and preferred contact method.  

Each article receives two rounds of edits — one for content and another for style. We will provide detailed feedback and multiple opportunities for you to review our edits. Please review the following general guidelines before drafting an article. 

  • Your first paragraph needs to convey exactly what the story is about and why it’s important.  
  • Headlines should be short, exciting, and give readers a sense of what the story is about.  
  • Use quotes from people — including residents, local officials, and/or project partners — involved or affected by the project or issue. Remember: Cities are made up of people, not places and policies!  
  • Use practical examples and data to support your article. Provide links to these resources whenever possible.  
  • Try to include tips for city officials interested in doing something similar in their community. 
  • Unless otherwise instructed, do not write in the first person. 
  • Western City articles often reach a broad audience. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and other phrases that may be confusing to a general audience.  
  • Structure your story so that anyone outside of city government can easily understand the key players, issues, policies, and actions. Remember to answer the Five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. 

The review process lasts approximately two weeks. Please take note of your assigned deadline and plan accordingly. Email your editor if you’re stuck or unsure about what to do next. 


Interesting, human-centered images can turn a great story into an unforgettable read. Please keep the following requirements in mind when submitting photos:  

  • Provide 4-5 relevant photos (landscape images preferred). 
  • Photos should be clear, in focus, and at least 1080 pixels wide. 
  • Photos with people are preferred. This adds a human element to the article. 
  • Provide information for each photo (who, what, when, where) or brief context about how the image is relevant to the article. 


Below are some stories that we like and that did well with our readers. In general, the best stories start with a clear thesis, explain the problem and solution for a lay audience, and provide takeaways for city leaders. Remember: You’re telling a story, not writing an analysis.  

Features: “The many uses and potential pitfalls of generative AI” and “Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fire service: Seven steps agencies can take” 

Local Works: “Traffic fatalities across the US rose in 2020 but not in Fremont. What did the city do differently?” and “Victorville to open the High Desert’s first-of-its-kind homeless shelter” 

Legal Notes: “Don’t fly by these rules when developing a city drone program” and “Is your agency prepared for a critical incident recording disclosure?” 

Special to Cal Cities: “Youth Jobs Corps is a win for young people and cities” 


The Western City managing editor at