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Your Free Local Weekly: A Great Place to Start
by Annie Gentile
Almost all towns have onea weekly newspaper
that arrives unsolicited on every porch and business free of charge. Ad driven,
these papers were once just a hodgepodge of classifieds for jobs, cars, and tag
sales, with a few news briefs about local upcoming events that bore no
But all of that is changing. In recent years as
the public has gained access to a greater number of news source choices, fewer
people are choosing to subscribe to the traditional purchased paper. And while
this may be bad news for subscription newspaper businesses, it has opened wide a
door of opportunity for free weekliesand the freelancers that write for
If the idea of writing for a free weekly
newspaper is something youve only given a passing glance, now may be the time
to revisit the thought. Add to that my ten top reason list why you should be
writing for a free weekly and you should make up your mind quickly:
Reason #1: Writing for free weeklies is a
fantastic way to kickoff your writing career. Free weeklies report local events
and typically draw from local talentthats you and me. And often getting
started doesnt require an extensive portfolio of published clips. Church
activities, local art shows, or school eventsfind out whats going on in your
town, write an informative article that showcases your skill, and send it off to
the editors. More often than not, if they like what they see, youll be writing
Reason #2: Detailed coverage: Unlike daily
papers that rely on cranking out tidbits of information each day as the "big
local story" develops, free weeklies do not have the luxury of being able to
offer the latest "breaking" news. Yet this, in itself, is a boon, for free
weeklies must therefore turn the focus of their coverage to more complete and
in-depth analyses of those same big local stories. In todays time-crunched
society, this is your opportunity to offer the public total coverage of a story
in one informative article that other papers may take weeks to unfold.
Reason #3: Name Recognition. By definition free
weeklies have only enough room for a few stories a week. The rest of their space
must be dedicated to paid ads. For the freelancer, this means that every printed
article will be a standout.
Are you a history buff? If you have a strong
handle on your own local history, that knowledge and talent might develop into a
history column. Do you love to read? Can you pen an informative, interesting
book review? Your local editor might create a special niche for you. Once people
start seeing your name, youd be amazed how work opportunities will grow.
Reason #4: When it comes to free weeklies,
youre where its happening! Free weeklies thrive on local issues, so no matter
where you live, its where the news is.
Reason #5: Unlimited writing opportunities. This
is really a carry-over from Reason No. 4, but its important to point it out
that good local stories can be found under every rock. Check out your volunteer
organizations. Youll find them to be wonderful collections of people who do
good things in their communities, albeit living, breathing writing
opportunities. From the woman who has donated a weekly portion of the last
twenty years to voicing on tape books for the blind, to the local man who
travels to Nicaragua to help support free-trade coffee purchasing practices,
these are the people that fuel the articles for local weeklies. And theyre
Reason #6: Money. How many articles have you
read that suggest writers who need clips should first consider working for
publications that offer no compensation? It hardly seems fair, and writing for
free weeklies means you dont have to settle for it. And heres something else
you might not knowbecause free weeklies get their revenue from ads (typically
prepaid ads), they are often healthier than their subscription-based sisters.
Not only may you find yourself getting paid as much for your work as
subscription papers, but you also may find yourself getting paid
Reason #7: A free education! Why do writers
write? If theres one thing we all have in common, its an innate curiosity.
Inquiring minds need to know! Every article you write for your local weekly is
an opportunity to learn about the world around you.
Reason #8: Assertiveness training: A huge banner
festooned with yellow ribbons was strewn across the front yard of a local home;
it declared three simple words: Welcome Home Mike! There was a story there, and
the only way to find out about it was to knock on their door and ask. Talk about
nervous. But I did it. And do you know what? I met a very nice family who was
simply thrilled that dad and hubby was coming home from Iraq. This family hadnt
been together in a year, and it was nice to share their story. Learning to be
just a little more forward, learning how to approach people can carry over into
other aspects of your life. Ive gained confidence as both a writer and as a
person. Thats good stuff.
Reason #9: You get to be the bearer of GOOD
news. War, political corruptionsure, we need reporters that keep us informed of
the not so pretty world around us. Unfortunately, too many writers are under the
impression that in order for a story to be newsworthy, it must either shock,
anger, or otherwise elicit a negative public reaction. Writing upbeat positive
stories is your opportunity to showcase the good things in your
Reason #10: You actually get to write. This last
reason may seem obvious, but far more often than I care to admit, before I
looked into my free local weekly, when it came to writing, I was doing a lot
more thinking than doing. Sound familiar?
Then what are you waiting for?
© Copyright 2004, Annie Gentile
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