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Need A Clip? Open A Newspaper
by Shirley Kawa-Jump
As any fledgling writer knows, there's a giant
Catch-22 in the publishing world - can't get published without clips and can't
get clips without getting published.
To circumvent that, you might want to first
delve into the arena of small papers or free newspapers because they often have
a lack of writers. These types of papers pay little or nothing at all. My first
newspaper job was for a weekly hometown paper that paid seventy-five cents a
column inch, about $10.00 an article. It wasn't much, but it eventually led to
much bigger and better things.
Pick a newspaper that is open to freelancers and
study it at the library or on the Internet (if the archives are on the Web).
Don't just look at the last three issues, really study the paper over the last
three months. Then go look at the competitor's newspaper. There will be stories
that one paper covered and another didn't, sometimes due to lack of interest but
often because there was no one to write the piece.
Come up with several ideas to pitch to the
editor. Five or six is best because then you have plenty to come back with if
the first two are rejected. Try to think of angles other people haven't done
before. For instance, if the weather is getting warm, that means the local ice
cream shops will be opening up again. That in itself is a story, but not a very
good one. What if you pitched the editor "How Ice Cream is Made" or "The Real
Scoop on the Latest Ice Cream Statistics"? Neither of those angles are typically
covered but both make for interesting pieces.
Decide which section your idea would best fit in
and then look up the name of the editor. If you don't know how to pronounce the
name of the editor, or aren't sure the paper even uses freelancers, call the
switchboard and ask the receptionist. In newspapers, getting things right the
first time is half the battle. The last thing you want to do is get your
preliminary information wrong. Take five seconds to find out who edits the Metro
section - it will be worth it.
Now make the phone call. If it's a morning
paper, try around eleven in the morning. Afternoon papers, wait till about three
o'clock, when the issue has just hit the pavement. For weekly papers, call the
day after the issue comes out. The hours leading up to deadline are the busiest
for editors so make sure you aren't calling at the wrong time.
When you make your pitch, keep it clear and
concise. Remember the ABC's of journalism - Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity. These
are the guidelines for every article you write and for querying editors. Make
your point, have some information already gathered (names of some sources, local
places to call, etc.) and list your credentials if they are relevant. If you
worked on a newspaper before, that's important. If you're a full-time dentist
who wants to write about new dental technology, that is also a key
Even if you have no writing experience at all,
you can often land at least one assignment for a newspaper by offering to do the
article "on spec". Working on speculation is frustrating, very frustrating, but
is often the only way to get your foot in the door. If you do a terrific job, it
will automatically lead to more assignments and paychecks.
And remember, that's what you ultimately
This article appeared originally in
Byline magazine http://www.bylinemag.com
© Copyright 2001, Shirley Kawa-Jump
Shirley Kawa-Jump (www.shirleyjump.com), the author of How to Publish Your Articles: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publication Say Yes, wrote her first published article at the age of eleven and was hired as a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper at the age of twelve. In the ensuing years, she has written more than 2500 articles that have been published in national and local magazines and newspapers.
Other articles by Shirley Kawa-Jump :
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