Newspaper Writing: Not So Boring and Good For Your Craft

Monday, September 22, 2008
I have posted before about being a stringer for your hometown newspaper. I am actually called a news correspondent, and not a stringer, but it is the same thing. Whenever I tell people I write for The News-Gazette, they will always ask, "What kinds of things do you write?"

I say, "Oh, school board and village board meetings. Human interest stories, stuff like that."

And there is always a pause with a comment such as, "Oh, how exciting."

Actually, I love it. If you are thinking about places to find regular writing jobs, turn to your newspaper. Here's three reasons why I love this job.

1. It teaches me to focus my writing. When I go to school or village board meetings or I cover an event such as a farmer's market or Humane Society garage sale, there 's a lot of stuff going on that I don't have the space to write about. I have to think like this: "What would a taxpayer want to know about the meeting?" or "If someone was going to this event, what would they definitely need to know?" or even "What would get people to come to this event or meeting if they've never been before?" When I ask myself questions like these, it helps me to pick the details I need to include in my article and helps me to write an interesting opening paragraph.

2. It helps me with my interview skills. Newspaper articles need facts and quotes. In order to get facts and quotes, I have to talk to people. Many times, I will have to call people I don't know, identify myself as being from the newspaper, and ask questions. Sometimes, people don't want to talk to newspaper reporters, even at the most innocent places. When I was covering a farmer's market in a small town, I had the hardest time trying to find ONE person to give me a quote about why he or she came to the market and why other people should, too. I couldn't believe it. I just kept smiling and asking until I found someone willing to talk to me. Other times, people are more than happy to talk to you, especially if it is to celebrate a victory or report on something they are passionate about.

3. It helps me meet deadlines. When I cover a meeting, I go to the meeting that night, come home, and write the article by 10:00 p.m. I have to be fast, accurate, and reliable. I know how to write to deadline. I know how to produce copy quickly. Before taking this job, I would have never believed that I could write something suitable for print in an hour or two, but now I do it at least twice a month. I have learned how to take notes and prioritize stories during the meeting and as I am driving home. These skills help me to meet my deadlines.

Sure, I'm not covering any huge stories--the regular reporters do that. But I've covered things like a baby reindeer's recovery at a reindeer ranch and a WWII veteran who finally received his high school diploma. These are fun stories. Just think about newspaper writing if you are looking for an income from your writing and ways to improve your craft!

Happy Writing,
Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them blog--


Monica Shaw said...

Wow, I would love to get a job on a newspaper stringer (I'm a freelance writer and have so far managed to get one article into a newspaper). I live in London where the "local" papers are big nationals so it's pretty hard to get in. I need to move to a smaller town!

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