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5 tips for getting your stories printed in local newspapers

September 8, 2016

5 Min Read
5 tips for getting your stories printed in local newspapers

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to comment, email or send me a Facebook message in response to my blog post, “Vegan criticism is fuel for my fire.” It’s never fun being compared to a Nazi, having your family attacked and your personal beliefs torn to pieces, but at the end of the day, I have to admire zealot vegans for their passion.

Even if I think they could benefit from a steak, I know that we will never see eye to eye, and that’s OK. I’m more concerned about reaching the 95% of folks who simply want to know more about where their food comes from, and I hope my voice is louder than the vegan crowd’s.

The blog post sparked some great conversations and ideas for future blog posts. One reader question, in particular, was definitely worth expanding upon in a blog post instead of simply responding in the comments section.

Eileeno writes, “Our local Cattle Women's Association would like to do more to reach the public to advocate for the good of cattle — especially their contribution to improving rangeland and providing important human nutrition. But how can we get newspapers to print our stories? Suggestions?”

What a great question! I think a lot of readers could benefit from some tricks of the trade to get more positive articles printed in their local papers.

Switching from my rancher’s hat to my journalist’s hat, here are five tips for success in getting your articles printed:

1. Pitch your story idea

Having an ongoing relationship with the editor of your local newspaper is always beneficial. Perhaps you won’t even be the one writing the story, but if you let the editor know when a cattlemen’s event is coming up or perhaps pitch an idea for a story, the paper will be more likely to send a reporter to cover the event.

Ideas for stories might include: local FFA chapter does good in the community; young rancher continuing family tradition; area producer trying something new or innovative on his ranch; meat locker selling beef raised from area 4-H kids; etc.

Perhaps you could tie your story to other big news in the area. For example, if your community has been hit by wildfires, tie an article idea to that event and explain how cattle grazing helps prevent the spread of wildfires. Watch for big headlines in the paper and find creative ways to tie in to the events the newspaper is already covering. Remember, local papers and radio stations want local stories.

2. Research style

Every newspaper, magazine or online publication has a unique style. Know and understand the editor’s preferences for writing style, length of story, type of story, etc. to better deliver something the editor can use without editing, cutting or changing too much. This makes his job easier and you more likely to have success.

3. Package your story

Today’s editor is not only printing a paper each week, he is also packaging stories for the online website, as well as social media platforms. Provide copy for the paper and repackage in a shorter, snappier version for the web. Bonus points if you include a Tweet and Facebook post, so they are ready to go online.

For example, a lengthier newspaper post could be shortened to a numbered list for easy reading online. Check out the website to see how the editor prefers the online versions of stories to appear. Editors are usually on a time crunch, so anything to make their job easier will always help you build a relationship with the publication.

4. Provide photography & videos

Photographs and videos can help bring the story to life. Provide several good images to go with each story. Perhaps the editor isn’t interested in printing an article in the paper, but he might be willing to post a series of photos in an online gallery. Make sure to provide cutlines for each photograph in a document, so they are easy to understand and the editor doesn’t have to track you down for more information.

5. Deliver as promised

Did the editor give you a deadline and the go-ahead to pursue a particular story? Make sure you deliver on time or ahead of schedule. Know how the editor prefers to receive stories. Typically, it’s through email to allow for quick download and turnaround on the copy. If the editor knows you are reliable and can consistently provide clean copy for publication, you might just land yourself a regular gig!

Sometimes it’s hard to sell positive news stories, particularly in larger urban publications where it seems like bad news and sensational headlines sell the most papers. However, I have found that local, small-town newspapers are more than willing to print feel-good stories of people in their communities. Start there and gradually try to move to larger publications. Keep a portfolio of things you have had printed to showcase to editors in the future. And remember, a classic letter to the editor can be beneficial in telling your story, too.

You don’t have to be a journalist to be published in the newspaper, but keep these tips in mind to help you succeed when submitting material to the media.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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