Daily newspaper can be an asset in writer's toolbox
Published: August 31, 2010
I’ve never understood how someone can be a freelance writer without having an intimate relationship with at least one daily newspaper. The paper that lands at your doorstep each day is an asset in more ways than one.
Kay B. Day
Regardless of your home city, the communities within are covered by the daily newspaper. Admittedly much of the national news is homogeneous because it’s usually provided by wire services. But city and state news are usually unique and they cover every aspect of daily life. Your area of specialty as a writer doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a generalist. Reading a single issue can inspire ideas for your own stories and for a means to promote your book or blog.
|Many publications don’t make all content free. If you subscribe to a
daily newspaper, chances are you have access to all content if you
register with the newspaper site. It would be impossible for me to
estimate how many articles I’ve sold because of something that caught
my eye in the newspaper.|
I’ve also written poems inspired by
newspaper content. One poem came to me after I saw a photo of a
skyscraper—the moon was still shining in the early morning sky. I
absorbed that photo and somehow journeyed back in time to my ancestry.
I presented the poem when Florida poets read at the U.S. Library of
Congress and it is a favorite with many of my readers. I don’t think
I’d ever have written it had it not been for that amazing photograph.
subject guides inserted when elections are held, when taxes are due or
when a high profile event will be held are particularly useful. Those
special guides have an excellent shelf life and I hold on to them for
that reason. If you’re writing nonfiction, research can set you apart
from a writer who won’t bother to go beyond the Internet for sources.
once interviewed a young boy who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He
had the face of a cherub and unlike adults, he was comfortable speaking
to me without filtering what he said even though his mother was
present. He mentioned the name of a famous snake expert who had no
degrees in herpetology but who is known widely for his expertise. The
man’s expertise helped doctors know how to treat the victim. This
schoolboy described what it felt like to go through surgery and ended
the interview with words of wisdom—he told me he knew now to listen
when his mom told him to wear shoes. That article published in a daily
newspaper still stands as an excellent resource on a snake expert
widely known throughout the nation but who isn’t listed at the usual
place you’d look, a university or government agency.
So if you
happened to want to write a story related to snakebites, that newspaper
article contains information you’re not likely to find elsewhere. I
re-angled that story and tooled a column for my own website. It’s a
Newspaper articles have enabled me to
locate experts in numerous fields by backtracking the information to
the source and then by cross-searching. For example, I was researching
a column related to a social issue, and I read an article that quoted
several different experts. One expert had only a brief quote, but his
words intrigued me more than the others. I tracked him down, e-mailed
him for remarks and ended up with content others who wrote about the
topic did not have. In the news article, he was the lesser source. In
my spinoff, he was an articulate, unique voice with a different angle
on the topic.
The uniqueness of your content is a top incentive
for an editor to purchase your work and for a reader to seek out what
you write. It’s not good enough to re-spin what you read, but within
every article in a publication there are resources that act as
springboards. After all, research is a journey just like writing.
also keep a clip file. I routinely clip interesting articles and file
them in subject folders, making sure to include the date and page
number when I clip only the article instead of the whole page. I tend
to write about particular subjects repeatedly because my interest takes
twists and turns as a subject develops in the blogosphere. We may live
in a technically paperless ag, but there is definitely a bonus in
having paper files with information I may not remember until I thumb
through my folders.
Aside from inspiration and information, the
daily newspaper offers a monetary return. My subscription pays for
itself because I use coupons from circulars for everything from office
equipment and supplies to business lunches. I recently bought a new
video camera. The coupon I clipped from the circular in my Sunday
newspaper saved me $40. A double bonus was obtaining a box of recycled
paper for a penny.
If you’re promoting a book or a website,
e-mailing the editor of the section your work is relevant to could land
you an interview and help draw attention to your product. I can’t tell
you the number of times I’ve been cited or written about because I
e-mailed an editor. Sometimes I just e-mail to comment.
each day’s paper are multiple stories about weddings, deaths, community
leaders, arts groups, health and every other subject relevant to
humans. Thinking consciously about the newspaper as a source of
inspiration rather than solely as entertainment or information will
ultimately lead most writers to realize that a daily paper can indeed
be one of your most promising assets.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for
The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International,
The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To learn more about Kay Day, see www.kayday.com. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.