Hook local news to Web content and increase your freelance sales
Published: November 27, 2007
|There's an old chestnut, "All politics is local." You can apply the same maxim to the news. Almost every story that breaks on the national level not only had to begin somewhere, it also has local relevance in hundreds if not thousands of cities. That's why it becomes national news.|
Take, for instance, all the product recalls that have scrolled across the TV screen over the past few months. Toys have too much lead in the paint, frozen ground beef is contaminated with bacteria, and baby cribs pose a danger of strangulation. What does that have to do with you? Chances are good there's someone right in your hometown who has used a recalled product, and unfortunately chances are good there's someone close by who has been harmed by a recalled product. You simply have to put out feelers to locate people who can tell the story for you.
Every city can serve as news or feature material. I write for the lifestyles magazine Coastal Homes. I'd done a feature about an environmentally sensitive development close to my home. The magazine had done a center feature about tourist destinations like Savannah, Ga., and Newport News, Va. I realized neither of those cities was anywhere near the size and scope of my hometown. So I pitched the editor. But I didn't just pitch her on my city--I pitched a mega event that will be held here, featuring an Australian rugby league team that Russell Crowe happens to own 75 percent of, the South Sydney Rabbitohs. I had actually met the Academy Award-winning actor during a press event in Jacksonville, Fla. I wrote a newspaper story about him. So I threw in for my editor the tidbit about the Australia Day match being held in Jacksonville and mentioned I could provide photos of the actor with his team.
In addition to freelance sales, I follow the rugby league story on my blog. Even though the story is hooked to a Florida event, readers from all over the world click.
Virtually every magazine, newspaper and TV network has a Web site. All of those sites carry stories with both national and local significance. First the breaking news goes live, and then other related stories follow. After the controversy over a pharmaceutical company's marketing strategy for a new vaccine, a Florida family filed a lawsuit based on allegations a child had experienced paralysis because of the vaccine. That lawsuit and other related stories will keep this topic timely for months to come.
Even if you live in a small town, you will still find fodder for Web stories. Colleges and universities, government agencies, and arts organizations are great places to begin your sleuthing. Authors come to speak about their books, artists show up at galleries for shows, and musicians perform in response to invitations from cultural organizations. When you attend such events, always let the host know you plan to write about it, and ask permission to take photographs. Be sure to ask if you should refrain from snapping photos during a performance or speech, because some individuals prefer the camera not whirr until the program is concluded. Photos will enhance your possibilities for sales and are also great visual prompts for recalling details when you put pen to paper later on.
Next time you read news or features on a Web site, ask yourself what topics you might be able to find local interview subjects for. Then send e-mails or make phone contact with the organizers of local events. Ask the organizer to add you to the media list. You may be asked for publishing clips and/or background information, but that's about all you'll have to do.
Now more than ever, the whole world really is a village. The trick is to make your community's story relevant to the village at large. With a small amount of imagination and legwork, that's a pretty easy and profitable thing to do.
Tip: Don't overlook the market listings right under your nose here at WriterMag.com: You can study potential clients by visiting the Market Listings section, available free to subscribers to The Writer magazine..
--Nov. 27, 2007
In my next Web Savvy, I take a look at some recent lawsuits in the publishing world, and how you can avoid getting sued for what you write.