Thursday, November 30, 2006

Survey gives tips on story submissions

The best way to get your articles, releases, events and news stories in print is to do everything possible to make life easier for the local editor or reporter.

That means well-written, concise submissions that emphasize a local connection and news copy that does not need a lot of editing.

According to a survey I conducted in 2002 with local newspaper editors, the next most important thing to do is to meet deadlines.

If you represent an organization or business that will be making regular submissions to a media outlet, I recommend meeting with the editor or beat reporter to ask about deadlines. It is also a good idea to ask about personal preferences regarding submissions and delivery methods.

It is always best to submit typed articles. If you have to submit something that is hand-written make sure it is legible. The editor must be able to read it in order to use it. Either way, making the release timely is vital.

In this MU Extension survey, editors also suggested letting the local newspaper know at least a week in advance if something notable will be happening. It is also a good idea to find out what topics interest your local editor and to respect the editor’s local news judgment.

Stay in touch with the local editor, don't just call when you need a favor or have a complaint. At the same time, remember that editors have other stories to work on.

Five other suggestions from local editors: use statistics when possible, provide strong local content, use "bullets" to attract interest, list sources and alternative sources for follow-up, and consider doing follow-up stories on events.

Especially with weekly newspapers, Monday is typically the busiest day of the week. Avoid going by or delivering information on Monday if at all possible.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Newspapers remain primary souce for information according to survey

A telephone survey of 1,005 interviews was conducted in 2005 with Missourian residents by the Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR) of Missouri's School of Journalism on behalf of University of Missouri Extension.

Fifty-six percent of the people surveyed say they usually rely on newspapers as their primary source of information about what happens in their communities. Twenty-one percent use television and six percent listen to the radio as their primary source.

Three-fourths (76 percent) of the residents surveyed said they had access to the Internet.

For more information about the survey, contact Kenneth Fleming, director of CASR, at (573) 882-3396.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What would restore readership? More local coverage.

Print journalism continues to face declining readership. The answer, however, is the same as it was when I began my career as a weekly newspaper editor: more local content. Readers of the Cross Country Times didn't want to read about events elsewhere. They wanted to read about the people and events of northwestern Greene County. Our circulation zoomed upward, by the way, once we started refining that local focus. After I left, the newspaper circulation zoomed downward when another editor decided to report more on Springfield events than on Ash Grove, Walnut Grove and Willard.

Andrew Cline's Rhetorica blog often explores journalism issues from an academic viewpoint. One of his recent posts offers the same common-sense solution declining readership that I used 20 years ago: local content.

Dr. Cline goes into detail about what has not worked:

Here's a radical idea, a stupid idea, and idea so far out in the ozone as to be thoroughly without merit: Try taking citizens seriously; try treating them as citizens rather than consumers.

It's the one thing American journalism has yet to try in recent history. Shortening stories didn't work. More graphics didn't work. Putting fluff above the flag didn't work. Targeting free publications to young people didn't work. Shrinking the news hole didn't work. Cutting editorial staff didn't work. Cutting foreign news didn't work. Running wire fluff didn't work. Ignoring the poor and working class in favor of the middle class didn't work. Partnering with the advertising department didn't work. Specialty publications aimed at the rich didn't work. Re-design after re-design after re-design didn't work.

Randy Turner of The Turner Report comes to the same conclusion on his blog entry about this topic. He also offers to specific examples of how local coverage improved newspapers he worked out. Randy also has this to add:

Unfortunately today's newspaper publishers and business managers (most likely on orders from corporate suits who have never written a story in their lives) have decided that the only way to make profit from newspapers to create a flurry of niche publications and special sections. The daily newspaper has almost become an afterthought.

What are your thoughts?

How to Write Good

By Frank L. Visco
1. Avoid alliteration. Always._
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.) 4. Employ the vernacular._ 5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Biased Media? What one journalist thinks ...

A comment on media bias from the fall 2006 issue of "The Grassroots Editor," the quarterly journal of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

In the article entitled, "Newspapers have a moral obligation to recommend political candidates," Jim Painter, a member of the ISWNE board of directors and managing editor of the West Valley View in Litchfield Park, Ariz., writes:

In my opinion, it’s the concept of an “unbiased” press that is doing the public a disservice. There is no such thing as an unbiased press. Deep down, we all know that to be true, but no one in the mainstream media wants to admit it publicly.
We would like to leave our readers (or viewers or listeners, as the case may be) with the impression that, as professional journalists, we are somehow the masters of our personal biases, which, in a sense, makes us godlike creatures. I’ve known a lot of newspaper people in my life, and I can assure you, we are not god-like creatures.

What do you think?

Ten Unique Newspaper Names

Check out this selection of imaginative newspaper names:

The Big Pasture News - Grandfield, OK
The Drumright Gusher - Drumright, OK
The Franklin Favorite - Franklin, KY
The Mountain Ear - Conway, NH and Nederland, CO
The Raton Range - Raton, NM
The Town Meeting - Elk Rapids, MI
The Ark - Tiburon, CA
The Hustler - South Pittsburg, TN
The Locomotive - Lawrence, NE
The Champion - Chino Hills, CA

Do you know of a fun newspaper name that is missing from this list? If so, post a comment.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Do endorsements matter? Yes & No -- Part III

Four very good articles related to this topic appear in the fall 2006 issue of "The Grassroots Editor," the quarterly journal of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Here are a few of the highlights.

In the article entitled, "A contrary view of endorsing candidates," Dan Hammes, publisher of the St. Maries Gazette Record in Idaho writes:

In brief, I believe that a community served by only one newspaper is not well-served when that newspaper endorses one candidate over another. Assuming, of course, the newspaper’s editorial page is any good.
Those of us who write opinion pieces on a regular basis build credibility with our readers. That credibility, built over years of what we hope is reasoned, well-crafted opinion writing, serves to influence readers. If it doesn’t, we should find another line of work.
I think there is a more important role newspapers must serve.

In the article, "Many voters need a bit of help," John Bill Meyer, president of Hoch Publishing Co., Inc. in Marion, Kansas, writes:

Newspaper editors are in a better position to evaluate candidates than the average person who bases opinion on television commercials or coffee shop rumors.
Most editors are trained in political science, study sociology and logic. They also have experience.

In the article entitled, "Newspapers have a moral obligation to recommend political candidates," Jim Painter, a member of the ISWNE board of directors and managing editor of the West Valley View in Litchfield Park, Ariz., writes:

Newspaper reporters and editors, because they frequently come in contact with elected officials and political candidates, are often in a better position to judge the character, the knowledge and the experience of the candidates than the average citizen. That’s why we’re in a position — and have a moral obligation — to make recommendations for voters who haven’t yet decided who to vote for.

And finally, in the article, "Endorsements help promote meaningful community dialogue," Lori Evans, editor and publisher of the Homer (Alaska) News, writes:

Bottom line? Endorsements and other editorials are important because they constantly remind our readers that we all have the ability and responsibility to express our opinions and those opinions can help shape a community for the good.

What do you think?