Thursday, August 12, 2021

ABC’s of Newspaper Writing, part two

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

In a recent column, I shared an alphabet-list of newspaper writing jargon in hopes of enticing you to consider newspaper writing as a viable way of adding valuable credits to your writing portfolio. (You’ll find that article here

Newspaper contributions offer many benefits to a writer, like gaining those much-needed clips to share with an editor, publisher, or agent as proof of published works; practicing the concept of writing tight; meeting editor’s deadlines; crafting a ‘story,’ whether fiction or non-fiction, and much more.

As I’m sure you know, most newspapers across the country, in general, don’t make a practice of “talking about God” regularly, but many are not as opposed as others. My newspaper here in south-Georgia falls into that category, and religious organizations’ events are often reported in our paper. 

When my newspaper editor first gave me the freelance stringer job of writing “faith-based articles,” he gave me vague and few guidelines but did insinuate that he didn’t want me “to preach” nor “include many Bible verses.” 

BUT – my editor never said I couldn’t include quotes from my subjects doing just that! 

Many of the assignments he gave me, on the surface, had no faith focal point and wouldn’t lend itself to those kinds of messages … without some digging on my part! 

Some of the stories, with just a bit of my own reporter-led questions during the interview netted a “God-comment” that I included in the paper. You see, I did my research first, if I didn’t know anything about the organization or event or person I was interviewing, and if I found out there was any hint of a faith-walk related to the story, then I planned my interview questions accordingly. 

Often, I knew the subject of the article personally and knew of their walk with the Lord. That familiarity allowed me to easily bring the interview around to faith components. 

To continue with my ABC’s of newspaper writing, I’m going to share some articles I’ve had the pleasure to write in hopes that you’ll be stirred to look for and share similar, related stories in your local paper. I’ll share a few headlines and summaries in this column, and others in subsequent articles.

ABC's of Newspaper Writing

*A special mother-daughter day: Cancer patient pampered at Serenity Day Spa and Lori Grice Photography

My editor assigned this story at the request of the health organization responsible for the event. Obviously, they hoped to get “free publicity” for their non-profit organization, but they also knew it was a “feel-good” kind of story that would be of interest to readers. I wasn’t familiar with the organization because it wasn’t located directly in my hometown, but I knew the photographer who was volunteering her services, and I knew her faith story. 

I spent a couple of hours at the day spa where the event took place for the wheelchair-bound patient and her mother. 

My story began this way: “When asked what she wanted to make her dreams come true, Adrian Perkins, a cancer patient at PruittHealth-Bethany in Millen said she wanted to feel pretty. 

Perkins, 29, wanted a makeover and photo session. ‘And pizza and shopping,’ she added. 

The special day is part of a Committed to Caring project that PruittHealth-Bethany carries out through a partnership with a company called Second Wind Dreams that supplies the resources to make a person’s dreams come true.”

Sometimes, my interview subjects only alluded to such topics as “church” or “Christian music” to show any indication of their faith. But, I make sure to include those nuggets in my story.

Later in the article, I added these details from the interview: “Raised by her grandmother in Millen, Perkins grew up attending church and said that she learned to love gospel music as a child and now it plays a huge role in her comfort and faith during her sickness.” 

I also included a quote from the photographer that I knew personally: “Lori and her husband DeWayne aren’t new to this type of session and said they started several years ago giving the gift of family portraits to cancer patients and others in need.”

“Cancer survivor Lori said, ‘It’s our ‘thank you’ to God.’” 

The quotes I included weren’t pertinent to the news event that I was asked to write about, but made the story more powerful, in my opinion, and gave me the opportunity to share God-moments in the article. 

*Blessing of the Crops: Farmers, others gather to pray for growing season

As is obvious from the newspaper article title, this story has a specific faith component. The early-morning gathering is an annual event sponsored by the Statesboro-Bulloch County’s Chamber of Commerce’s Agribusiness Committee where attendees gather to pray for the upcoming growing season. In my rural, agricultural community, this is relatable news for many of my newspaper readers, but would be “new news” for many of the university professor residents who hail from all over the country or industry workers not-native to our community. 

This article lent itself to great “God-quotes.” 

I included this one: “Farmer Ryne Brannen summarized the thoughts of many when he said, ‘Everything we do, we’re utterly dependent on God. He provides everything we need. Without him, it doesn’t matter what we do.’”

*Chocolate Run benefits Open Hearts Community Mission: A ‘sweet’ way to assist Boro homeless shelter. 

Still relatively new to our community, the homeless shelter happenings are big events for us. I know the director and founder personally, a strong believer who never hesitates to give God credit and honor. Though my editor wanted readers to know about the fund-raising event, I knew I’d get great “God-quotes” for the story. 

The article begins, “Here’s your annual chance to eat lots of chocolate for a great cause and get some exercise, all at the same time. 

The 7th annual Chocolate Run to benefit Open Hearts Community Mission is set for Saturday. Registration for the run is ongoing and will remain open through 8 a.m. on Saturday.” 

Details later in the article include this info: Open Hearts Community Mission is a faith-based ministry dedicated to serving the homeless. The Open Hearts mission states, ‘To feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, restore the downtrodden and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’”

As you can see, I enjoy using assignments from my newspaper editor as a ministry to mention “God” as often as possible. And, while wearing my interview-hat, I make every attempt to steer my questions to elicit faith stories and quotes. 

What about you? Do you know someone in your community who has a great, news-worthy, human interest story that lends itself well to a faith component and God-quotes? Why not offer that story to your local paper’s editor and see if you can earn a new writing credit for your resume!


Julie Lavender, author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell), loves sharing God-stories in her paper and has written over 1000 newspaper articles thus far. Connect with Julie on social media – she’d love to help you earn writing credits by submitting to your local paper!


  1. Julie, I have enjoyed your writing on this blog. I share newspaper writing experience and the blessing of editors who allowed me to choose the topics. Thanks for your insights.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Roberta! I love being able to choose the topics to write about because it gave me so many opportunities to share community members' faith journeys and experiences! I feel so truly blessed to have gotten to know so many fascinating people in my community! So many great stories to tell of faith and perseverance and God-moments! Thanks for the encouraging words! Blessings to you, Roberta!!