Journalism 101: How to Write for Local Newspapers
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Journalism 101: How to Write for Local Newspapers

How to write for local newspapers, to write you must sell yourself. Local newspapers tend to give new or unpublished writers a chance. Tips for writing newspaper articles or online newspapers and magazines.

I was looking in my files and I found this older piece. I still think it can be useful for some of you. I don't know, but I think everyone can write for the newspaper, if we find one that will let us have a column. I have many friends that do already. If anyone gets a paid story or poem from it please let me know. Even if you find an online e-zine to write for, think of the exposure you would have.

Here are a few tips.

Major publications will not accept your writing if you are a virtual unknown. So I would not suggest that you try to write for the New York Times. Some will not take you seriously without a writing degree, or a degree in journalism. However if you have a writing portfolio established or at least some good writing samples of your work, it is possible to get a column in a small town newspaper. Lifestyle pieces are very popular these days and the best angle to take is to write what you know.

Local newspapers tend to give new or unpublished writers a chance. It comes down to a matter of being at the right place at the right time. If you go local you might even get an interview where you can sit down with the newspaper editor and discuss your plan for the column.

Make sure you are organized; you have a plan, and know just where you are going with the article. Be flexible enough to change some aspects of the plan if the editor is not entirely sold on the idea though not outright opposed to it.

Familiarize yourself with the flavor of the paper. For example, if the paper is primarily a farming community paper, chances are they would not be interested in a column on big city living.

Whether or not you meet in person or are planning on writing for a newspaper thousands of miles away through the Internet highway, you must be prepared. You need to know the contact person's name. You need to know the principles and practices of the newspaper.


You must go to the interview with the proper documentation to show what you can do. You must have a cover letter not only explaining why you want to write for this paper but also how you can enhance the newspaper with your contributions. Be confident - sell yourself as well as your qualifications.

The smaller newspapers may not pay a whole lot. You may not get the $700.00 a week that Carrie Bradshaw is said to make for her column Sex in the City, in the TV show that bears the same name, but more important than the remuneration at this time, is the fact that you are building your writing credentials and that in and of itself is worth more than its weight in gold. The experience you gain in this small town paper or publication well help you to get better paid work later on and help to build your writing reputation and status in the writing community at large.

After your work has been published, read it and check it with your submitted version. Articles are often edited to meet the publication's requirements. The trick is not to get offended by the changes. Use it as a learning experience. Study the modifications and submit further articles in the required style.

Sometimes a paper might agree to publish just one article. This is your opportunity to ask if there are other articles that they may wish to have for their publication for which you can do the research. It is a slower start than having a column up front, but you have the foot in the door and you can then suggest a column at a later date. Remember not all newspapers require a full time columnist but are willing to take independent pieces. If you are already a recognized contributor, you may have an edge if the opportunity arises for a featured column over a complete outsider.

Sometimes regional newspaper articles are offered as reprints to magazines and other publications with a few changes. Rewriting your article would be another golden opportunity for you to gain exposure.

Getting started is often the biggest determent to a writer's success. Be persistent, if you want a career as a writer, you cannot procrastinate, and you cannot give up and lose faith in yourself.

Finally get a little help from your friends. The greatest information system is the social networking system. Tell everyone that you are a writer, smooze with writers, and learn from them. Find out where the hub of writing is. Another great way to start your search is to subscribe to writing journals and magazines. These publications offer many calls for submissions with the writing guidelines. Do not dismiss any opportunity to learn valuable information or experience from someone in the know, or some publication that offers valuable information for writers and writing sources.

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Comments (4)

Hi, Carol, Nice job. Everyone can write for a newspaper, Everyone can even have something published in a newspaper from time to time but most of that stuff appears on the Op-Ed pages. Most news and features that appear in newspapers is staff written. Most major newspapers do have a Sunday supplement magazine and the editors of those magazine supplements are open to working with freelancers on a regular bases. You may have to start out by submitting scripts on spec but once they get to know you and your work, you will start getting called to do feature items. For that kind of writing it does help if you have press credentials as a freelance journalist. That little laminated card with your picture on it issued by a recognized news agency opens doors for you when trying to set up interviews and such. I just published an article on that, here's the link One will never get rich writing for newspapers but they can provide another source of steady income.

yes Jerry but I and a few other friends of mine did write for very small local papers, nothing on the magnitude of the new york times, or ven the Montreal Gazette where I live.

Interesting article, something I've always wondered about. Thanks!

sara It is not easy to get into though but if you are lucky enough to get into a small newsletter it is a start