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Timing is Everything
by Gloria Griepenstroh

Have you noticed that success in life is often about timing? Being in the right place at the right time or filling a need at a precise moment can shift your life where you least expect.

My experience working as a correspondent for a daily newspaper falls right into that category. I reaped a plethora of exposure and a folder of clips. But that's not all. I learned much about writing style and pleasing editors, which benefits my writing career today.

Working for a newspaper can get into your blood. Maybe I feel that way because I began my writing career working as a staff writing for sister weeklies in two small adjoining counties. For three years I covered county and town government and wrote the occasional feature article. Then I decided I wanted my writing to be less structured, so I took the jump into full time freelancing. Of course cash flow became an immediate problem in my less structured environment.

Then as if by fate, I noticed an ad in the daily paper for a correspondent to report local news. This daily was located in the third largest city of my state and in another county about 45 miles away. The newspaper decided to begin using correspondents in order to compete with another newspaper that was encroaching into their coverage area. Since the competing paper was covering local issues in my county, the daily felt they should do so as well.

This created an opening for me, since my main beat for the weeklies had been local government. I was thrilled to be considered for the position, but the newspaper saw a benefit for them as well. The daily was interested in my connections and knowledge of my county, its people and the political under currents involved. They let me do a few sample articles and before I knew it, I was sending them two stories a week.

So a marriage was consummated that benefited both of us. While the pay wasn't great, it was dependable and seeing those front-page bylines on occasion thrilled me.

During the three years that I wrote as a correspondent, I worked with four news editors and two feature editors. Each had different wants, needs, likes and dislikes. Most of them trusted my instinct, since I was familiar with the local people and issues. Of course, there was one editor that didn't follow my lead. We had many discussions on the slant of a story, but that was also helpful to my career. That kind of experience prepares you for future relationships with various editors.

The short deadline of the daily paper created a stark contrast to my previous schedule at the weekly and forged another useful writing tool. Most of my assignments were covered in the evening and due early afternoon of the next day. If I covered a day meeting, they would want the copy by early evening of the same day. I rushed to get them my e-mail story, but sometimes it would be held because of a more important breaking news event. Then of course when my story did make it into print, it was old news. Sometimes the local weekly paper I had worked for would scoop me, which was a disappointing, but fortunately, that didn't happen often.

Don't under estimate the value of clips and online articles to your writing career. An occasional feature along with news stories gave me a variety of clips. Since many of my stories were in the online version, it provided easy access for other editors to see my work.

I continued the correspondent relationship with the daily newspaper for three years, until I took full time employment in a non-writing job, which was another of those timing is everything opportunities that I couldn't pass up. Now I'm freelancing in addition to my day job, but I still draw on that experience as a correspondent and I keep my eyes and mind open to opportunities lurking out there.

© Copyright 2005, Gloria Griepenstroh

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