Tips for Writing for Newspapers

Online Newsletters

Meetings can make themselves known in their local community by publishing news of their activities in the local paper. Weekly articles tell readers the story of Friends in their community while inviting seekers to visit the meeting. These twelve tips will help meetings share their stories in the press.

Adapted from a Workshop by Norval Reece, Newtown Meeting

Know your newspaper
Literally.  Stop in to see the editor and tell her/him what you want to do and ask how she/he would like for you to go about it.  Does the paper have guidelines for writers?  Due dates?  Contact person for you?  Photos?  What kind?

Know your audience
Newspaper readers have short attention spans.  Don’t write like an erudite Quaker.  Write for the Reader’s Digest – or for an average 5th grader.

Get into a publishing routine
Become a “staff writer” for your paper.  Do an article a week.  Once you get in the habit, it will take maybe an hour.  Not all the articles will run – but many will, and voila! — people will discover you exist.

Include contact info
With each submission to a newspaper, be sure to give your full name, email and phone number as ‘contact’ for more information or to authenticate the source. 

Keep it short as well as simple  — usually 250-350 words.

Respect due dates
Weekly newspapers have early due dates.  They are short on staff.  Find out what the deadlines are – and get your piece in at least a day early.  Getting in print may depend on it.

Avoid jargon, especially Quaker jargon
Use the term “Quakers.”  Never call something a “Monthly Meeting” in public.  Never say “First Day” or “clerk” outside the Quaker inner circle — unless you explain it.

Attach a photo
More people will be attracted to your article if it comes with a photo.  Take it yourself and email it – JPG usually preferred.  Always send a photo.  Don’t despair if it’s not always used.   Space may be the issue.   But, if it’s never used, stop in and ask why.

Always include the 5 W’s
Who, what, when and where should be in the first paragraph. “Why” is in your colorful, intriguing, descriptive follow-up.  Try to include something informative about the peculiar people called Quakers – e.g. we don’t vote, we don’t pass a collection plate, leaders called “clerks”  – and explain why – briefly.

Turn a news story into publicity for the meeting
Develop a standard final paragraph that gives the address, regular worship time and contact information including the website.  Sometimes the newspaper cuts this paragraph but usually not.  Including it allows seekers to know they are welcome and how to find the meeting.

Be easy to edit
Respect the editor’s time; make it easy for the editor to include your piece.  First, be succinct – short sentences.  Second, put the essentials in the first paragraph. Third, make each succeeding graph short and tight – around one aspect of the event – so that an editor can chop the whole graph if necessary and still have the article make sense.

Be persistent
If your article doesn’t appear when expected – and it is not time sensitive – consider sending it in again, a week or two later, with a different lead and a different photo if you have one.  It often works.  If your article is time sensitive, e.g. announcing in advance an event, and it doesn’t get carried, re-write it as a report on the event as it happened and send it again.

Be creative
Ask people in your meeting to keep you posted on things their committees or kid’s classes are doing.  There is something that happens at your meeting every week that is interesting to somebody.  Friends may think they’re being modest when declining publicity; in fact, they may be denying someone an opportunity to find a like-minded faith community.

Download these tips as a PDF

Download a sample press release