Local news. It’s been around since newspapers first began. People want to know what’s going on in their neighborhood–what sort of crime they need to worry about, whose child just won Eagle Scout honors, what’s going on in that new store on Main Street?
None of that is what the major papers would call “news,” but it’s still important to the people who live in the area. I remember how excited my family was when our local newspaper, The Birmingham Eccentric, called to ask if they could photograph my little sister and me having fun in our row boat on the pond in our back yard. The story, just a long caption under the picture, was riddled with errors, but we loved that recognition just the same. I kept the clipping for years.
Yesterday, I had the chance to meet the public liaison person for the Denver Post’s YourHub south metro edition. Dacia Johnson came to the Post right out of college, and had already finished her first year in this new position. She gave me the ins and outs of submitting to the newspaper. Although she never used the word “stringer” that’s the kind of work she’s looking for. No pay in this, mind you, but there is the opportunity to see your name in print. Whoo Hoo!
I was a stringer once before, for the Pontiac-Waterford Times. They let me write about anything I could think up, and tell people I didn’t know that I was working for a real newspaper. I interviewed school board members and store keepers. Sometimes I wrote off the top of my head. It was a great experience while it lasted (all of a blink of an eye) and I hope writing a story here and there for the YourHub will be a good experience too.
I love how this works. I sign up to be a local contributor, then I can write stories about anything going on in Littleton. I get a by-line (and hopefully expand my readership), the Post gets a local story to fill its pages, and the public keeps up with what’s going on in their neighborhood. Win, win, win. Now this is my kind of volunteer work.
The paper isn’t as interested in columns and opinion pieces any more, because, to be honest, they’re saturated. But features? Oh, they’d love those.
Now, I believe that many of the major newspapers across the country and even around the world have local editions. As a writer, this isn’t going to make you rich quick. Contributing to local news will get you little more than name recognition locally. But it’s a start.
If I can get a handful of readers with my newspaper contributions, I am building credibility for the next editor who allows me to submit another Daisy Arthur mystery. It helps that editor “sell” my book to her team as a good risk. This improves my chances for publication. In today’s author lingo, this is called “building your platform.” You may want to think about giving it a try.
Okay, I am ready to rock and roll here. Now, all I need is a good topic. Hmm…