Thursday, April 9, 2020

Share good news and the Good News with newspaper writing

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

To report the condition of our country and world in recent days, most of our newspapers scream dire and depressing headlines. And though we need that important information disseminated, good news stories and inspirational features can add a balance to otherwise difficult news to swallow. 

Now’s a great time for writers to contribute encouraging articles and faith-based stories to local newspaper. The slim staff of most newspaper entities keeps busy reporting “just the facts,” and stringers can add that leverage of boots-on-the-ground, local , feel-good stories to the content. 

Reach out to the newspaper editor and ask if you can send him or her a story for consideration. Then, write that story about something in your community that you’ve always thought should be broadcast in the newspaper or a current event that’s taking place right now in your community circle of friends or family members.  

Conduct an interview via phone call, write the article, and get it to the editor in a timely manner. Be sure to ask the person you’re interviewing if he/she can send you a picture to go along with the story, as you probably won’t be able to take a picture in person at this point with travel and shelter-in-place restrictions.

To refresh your memory, here’s some reminders about newspaper writing.

Generally speaking, the two main types of stories that you might be writing for your newspaper are: 
  • 1) news article 
  • 2) feature article.  

A news article covers the who, what, when, where, and how of a current event. You might choose to write a news article that covers five local churches’ efforts to get their services broadcast online and how a church without that capability is meeting the spiritual needs of their congregation. 

A feature article is typically longer and goes into more depth than just the details of a current event, news article. The feature might be covered from several angles and is written with more creativity and an entertaining bent. That doesn’t eliminate the creativity of a news article, however. But generally speaking, feature articles allow for more creativity. 

Both articles begin with a lead sentence that grabs and hooks the reader right away. The news article will often get the who what, when, where, and how in that very first sentence.  

For example, a news article might begin: “Friendship Baptist Church in-person services are canceled until further notice, but the church will record DVD sermons for deacons to deliver to church members upon request.” 

The feature article might begin with more of a tease as to what’s to come in the next couple of sentences. Here’s an example of a feature first-sentence: “With much uncertainty and new challenges arising daily, almost hourly, amidst the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, school systems all across the country scrambled recently to meet the food needs of their community’s children for an extended period of time.” 

The introduction of both types of articles gives the facts and figures next, usually in the first or second paragraph. Think of a newspaper article as an inverted pyramid. All the important details are mentioned at the beginning – no surprises held out for later in the article. 

Sadly, many people only read the first couple of paragraphs of a newspaper article and will not finish an article in its entirety. Therefore, all the info has to be at the top. Lesser details come later in the story, which also allows for an editor to chop the end of the story, if space is a premium for the newspaper. 

The second sentence of the church news article continued the introduction of the story with these words: “Without the capability to produce online services, the smaller church with a congregation of mostly seniors chose to record sermons for distribution to continue to meet the needs of their members.”

The second sentence of the feature article mentioned above continued this way: “Bulloch County Schools joined the ranks of others in that unfamiliar territory, and quickly formulated a plan to provide breakfast and lunch sack meals for students, distributing the first meals on Tuesday.” 
The main body of both types of stories often leads with a quote to give the reader a sense of those involved in the story. 

My school bus meal delivery story continued this way: “Sabrina Fields picked up sacks of food in the Statesboro Public Library parking lot for the four kids she had in tow, ages two, five, six, and 10, who attend Langston Chapel Elementary School. Thrilled for the opportunity to take care of her kids’ meals, Fields said that the pick-up spot was convenient and easily accessed.’With everything going on around us, just trying to keep updated with the virus, it’s great not to have to focus on cooking,” said Fields. “It’s time-saving and now I can focus on my kids.’”

The church article continued this way: “’This was such a hard decision to make,’ said Pastor Tony Pagliarullo. ‘We’re working to still provide our members and regular attenders opportunities to engage and connect through worship.’ Pagliarullo urged his congregation to reach out to others when possible, with phone calls, text messages and emails.

The main body of both stories continued with other details to complete the story, and the conclusion wrapped up the story. Sometimes a quote summarizes a story succinctly and personally, too. 

The news, church service article described how the members could get the DVD sermons and ended with a quote from the pastor, that said, ““In these unusual days, we know that we serve a God who is always faithful,” Pagliarullo said in an email to members. “We serve a God who is sovereign, loving, merciful and compassionate. Let us encourage each other to seek the Lord, trusting in his plans and purpose. The world is watching believers right now to see how we will continue to worship the Lord, trust the Lord and make disciples even during these unprecedented days. May we be faithful.”

The meal delivery service for students contained heartfelt quotes from fearful and anxious parents collecting food, described how the food was being prepared and distributed, and included quotes from a Board of Education employee. 

The story ended with these two paragraphs: “The virus was rarely mentioned in the brief meal pick-up by families, though some adults spoke of the uncertainty of the situation. All appeared grateful, with signs of relief and appreciation evident on most faces. 

‘We’ve seen a lot of smiles today,’ Brown said.”

Have you thought about contributing news stories and features to your local newspaper? Now is a great time to check out that market and add valuable writing credits to your resume with published newspaper story. The world needs the good news and Good News that you just might have the opportunity to share! 


Julie Lavender is a journalist, author, and former homeschooling mom of twenty-five years who holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. Julie is married to her high-school and college sweetheart, and Julie and David are the parents of four, in-law of one, and grandparents to a sweet, fourteen-month-old grandson. 
Julie loved living in various locations across the country as the wife of a medical entomologist for the United States Navy. After her husband retired from active duty, the family moved back to their hometown, and David began work as a wildlife biologist at a nearby Army installation.

Julie is excited that her parenting book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories, published by Revell, releases in October of this year. Julie’s newspaper contributions number over 900 news articles, features, columns, and more, and she loves sharing good news and the Good News in her newspaper, the Statesboro Herald. She would love for you to connect with her on social media and chat about newspaper writing.


  1. Julie,

    Thank you for this breath of fresh air and helping writers understand their pitch to editors can have impact--and the details of how to do it. I hope many will take action from this wonderful article.

    Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Terry! I'm passionate about getting these positive, local stories out there by way of newspaper writing, and I do hope many will take this opportunity to do so in their own community. Blessings!

  2. Outstanding blog message, Julie. I am a regular contributor to 2 magazines. My family has been self-quarantined for 4 weeks now. Hard to find optimists these days, but they are out there. And all the pessimists are claiming to be 'realists.' I no longer believe there is any such thing as a realist. Anyway, our writer's guild has gone from one meeting/month to several, thanks to zoom and instant online meeting opportunities. We now have fresh-crafted poetry readings (from our homes) every Tuesday mornings, bi-weekly committee meetings in the evenings, and one-on-one training or mentoriching sessions on random afternoons. We're now able to have speakers from anywhere in the world and NO ONE had to travel. (Want to be a speaker for us?) We're also able to grant access to other guilds who have chosen to suspend meetings indefinitely. Lastly, those of us who have self-quarantined (most of us) are writing an essay or a poem almost every day and will be publishing them as collections in a series. We plan to write them as long as the world-wide pandemic lasts. The spiritual awakenings and insights that are showing up in our writings, well, they are amazing. God is blessing us with inspiration daily - with or without watching the news. Our guild has been transforming before our eyes, and we haven't met physically since January. That's just OUR story! How people are handling social distancing and a constant barrage of ugly news - especially during this Holy Week - provides stories for ANY writer. Muses are working double shifts. News and feature articles are in plain sight waiting to be written - just look out any window.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

    1. Wow, Jay! You guys have really found a way to make the best of a challenging situation! And, like you said, that's just your story, and I hope and pray that there are lots and lots of stories like this out there that will come to light and shed so much positivity and optimism during this time. Thanks so much for sharing your story - I hope it will be great encouragement to others! (And, your speaker idea sounds lovely - can you email me at I love talking about writing!) Blessings.

  3. Well said Ms Julie. God gives each of us His light to shine. We must remember to ask Him for guidance on where He needs us to shine it, and then have the courage to do so. Always a blessing ma'am.

    1. J.D. - I keep thinking, "for such a time as this." God's gift to writers, those words He wants us to share, He makes a way for us to do that such that we can share the Good News and His glory with others. And now, more than ever, in these uncharted waters, we need to shine Him at every opportunity. Thanks for joining the conversation! Always a pleasure to hear your encouraging words!

  4. This is a wonderful idea! I appreciate your real-life examples too. Human interest stories have always been one of my favorite newspaper reads.

    1. Candyce, I love human interest stories, too! My family has always giggled when random strangers tell me stories in grocery stores and other locations, and I've always joked right back that I have this stamp on my forehead that says, "Talk to me; I'll listen to your stories." Human interest stories intrigue me and they are the very ones we love reading about in a newspaper - we need that so desperately to offer hope and encouragement and to balance the "bad" news that seems to fill the pages of a newspaper! Thanks for the comment!