Thursday, June 13, 2019

6 Steps to Break Into Newspaper Writing

By Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

And the winners are ….. 

I told you last month in my very first blog post for The Write Conversation that writing for newspapers as a faith-based, freelance stringer is a win-win strategy. An unpublished or newly-published author wins valuable credits for the resume when a newspaper article sporting his or her byline appears in print. And the readership of the community earns the prize of positive and inspirational, local content above and below the fold. 

I extolled the virtues of newspaper writing because I’m passionate about sharing GOOD news amongst the dark and difficult current event news stories. I‘m most passionate about sharing the GOOD NEWS - local God-stories with positive messages and encouragement for the believer and non-believer in newsprint pages that arrive early each morning in the paper box or news stand.

My newspaper writing passion led me to enter several articles in this year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference contest. For the first time, BRMCWC offered a “published short works” category. I feel strongly about entering conference contests, not for a possible “win,” but because I know the money goes towards scholarships for those in need. I was once a scholarship recipient at another conference and vowed to give back at future ones.

I was elated to receive word that I was a Selah finalist. My name joined other distinguished writers in that category, and I prepared to congratulate the winners. We were all winners – we were Selah finalists.

I can’t begin to describe my surprise at placing first. I’ve read penned words by those in my category, and I’m convinced we were fractions of points apart in the judging. 

Thank you, BRMCWC – I am honored and blessed with a newspaper-published, short works Selah award. It’s one I will treasure always. 

You, too, can be a winning newspaper writer. 

A steady stream of fresh content fills the pages of newsprint, seven days a week for larger cities, six days for medium-sized ones like my hometown, or once a week for the next county over. That’s where the freelancer comes in. 

Newsrooms can’t afford to pay a wealth of fulltime reporters, but welcome contributions from freelance stringers. 

Here’s how to begin a winning relationship with the editor-in-chief of your local newspaper.

1. First, study the paper. Read it from cover to cover. Check the story lengths of front page stories and those on the inside pages. Look at all the departments. Compare the local stories to those purchased from Associated Press or other avenues. 

What feature articles appear front-page? Are personal profiles used? Is there a Lifestyle section, perhaps in the Sunday edition? Are educational stories included? Faith-based articles? Is there adequate sports coverage for local teams? Are family-friendly stories included? Stories featuring women? Do the article headlines reflect the diversity of your community and country?  

2. Once you have a feel for the stories your newspaper publishes, seek three to four similar, but fresh, stories with local relevance to research. Conduct interviews, if necessary, and make sure every fact is irrefutably accurate. (We’ll talk more about interviews next time.) 

3. Snap pictures to go along with the articles, just in case the editor wants to use your sample story for an upcoming issue.

4. Compose and type the stories, including relevant pictures. Print hard copies of the samples to present to an editor, though if you develop a working relationship, you’ll most likely email future stories to him or her.

5. Email or phone the newspaper editor and ask for an appointment to discuss freelance opportunities. If you’re published, share that info with the editor. If you’re not published, share other related information. Like, how long you’ve lived in the community or your involvement there. How passionate you are about the community. Any education degrees or certificates or writing courses/conferences you’ve attended that have given you the skills to write for the paper. Share whatever pertinent information that could be a selling point for you as a freelancer. 

6. Armed with samples, arrive on time for the appointment and confidently share your desire to contribute local content to the paper. 

When the editor smiles and says, “Yes – I love it! Give me more!” – then you’ve won the jackpot! 

Ask if you can supply stories regularly – and be sure to ask how frequently he or she can use your stories – but also make yourself available for assignments. Discuss payment, keeping in mind that it could be minimal, or for some papers, non-existent. 

But like I mentioned in the last post, the prize of consistent bylines to build up the resume or the intrinsic rewards of sharing God-stories and positive articles often far-outweighs the monetary value of newspaper writing. 

Get details about how to submit stories and the format the editor prefers and ask any other questions that would be beneficial to writing the stories. 

If by chance the editor turns down your offer, ask if you can reach out to him or her again later. Positivity and persistence pays off and maybe the timing will be right on another day.

If you get a resounding “yes,” celebrate with a double-scoop of ice cream, then get busy searching for stories. Find that unique story that no one’s covered. Give readers headlines that they’ll talk about over the lunch break or share on social media. 

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Isaiah 52:7 ESV.

And the winners are …. YOU and your community.


Of all the hats Julie’s worn over the years – Navy wife, public schoolteacher, homeschooling mommy to four, church volunteer in a variety of ages and stages, writer, book and magazine author, journalist, conference instructor, and crochet gal – her most favorite hat of the past will always be homeschooling mommy. Overtaking rapidly, though, is the GrammaJulie hat of the last four months. 

Julie writes for her hometown newspaper and was thrilled to win a 2019 Selah award for a published newspaper story, She also writes for Guidepostspublications, magazines, various compilations, and several parenting blogs. She is the author of 365 Days of Celebration and Praise: Devotions and Activities for Homeschooling Families, Creative Sleepovers for Kids, and three teacher resource books for the religious division of Carson-Dellosa Publishers. Connect with Julie on Facebook, Twitter at @JLavenderwrites, Instagram at JulieLavenderwrites, and follow her nature blog, On My Walk With God, at

1 comment:

  1. Great tips Ms. Julie; and it seems a wonderful place to start a professional writing career. Thank you so much for such an encouraging message ma'am. God's blessings.