Local newspapers typically welcome articles submitted by people who live in their circulation areas, but you probably won't get paid for your efforts at first. You can send a press release about a timely issue to multiple local and regional newspapers at the same time, or send in a human interest feature article about people in the community. Think about an idea for your story, and look at the newspaper to make sure the article is a good fit with the content it publishes. You should also check to make sure the newspaper hasn't published a similar article recently.
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Read several issues of your local newspapers to get a feeling for the kinds of articles they print and the tone of the writing. If submitting a feature article, choose an interesting topic and think of an attention-grabbing angle to the story. If composing a press release, include the essential information like who is involved, where it took place and when, what happened and why. Present details in journalistic "inverted pyramid" style -- subsequent paragraphs with the least important information last.
Find out the editorial guidelines for each newspaper, such as the length of the articles they prefer to receive. Newspapers may post submission guidelines on their websites, or you can usually get this information by calling the news room.
Write a balanced article with quotes from pertinent parties, with a brief explanation as to why they are qualified to comment on the topic. Put the article in context by including other points of view, not just one side of an issue. Avoid inserting your own opinion and just stick to the facts -- opinions should come only from a quoted source, not from you as the writer. For press releases that announce an upcoming event, include all pertinent information, including the time, location and purpose. Contact information should be prominently placed on the press release in case the editor chooses to gather more information or expand the article.
Use a concise writing style and proofread your article carefully. Ask someone else to read the article with a critical eye before submitting it. The article should be grammatically correct and contain no mechanical errors. Make sure the voice and style of your article is in keeping with the journalistic writing style of the newspaper.
Find out the appropriate editor to whom your article should be sent, and then send your finished article in the way recommended by the newspaper. Most newspapers appreciate article submissions by email either as a file attachment or in the main body of the email. It is appropriate to call a day or two after sumbission to ensure that the article made it through successfully, and to see if you need to do anything further.
Tips and warnings
- Some newspapers prefer that you submit ideas or partially finished articles for feedback before completion. Check the writer's guidelines for each individual publication.
- Use the "inverted pyramid" style of writing. This means that the most important information goes in the first paragraph, with details in later paragraphs. That way, the newspaper will find it easy to use your article even if some less important paragraphs have to be cut from the end to save space.
- Include your contact information and label each page with your name, the topic and the page number.
- Keep in mind the adage, "If at first you don''t succeed, try, try again." Submitting material on a regular basis -- ensuring you act on the editor's feedback for improvement -- can pay off in the end by making you a published writer.
- Wait until you hear whether or not the newspaper will accept your article before submitting it to another newspaper. It is, however, acceptable, to submit press releases to multiple news services simultaneously -- just make sure you designate the article as a press release at the top of your document and in your submission email.
- Accept criticism gracefully and make revisions recommended by the editor. After all, the editor knows what is acceptable to the newspaper and interesting for readers.
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