Writing and Selling News Items By David Geer

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I’ve found a way in to consumer and trade publications where no opening was apparent before.

How did I attain clips in Art&Antiques, IEEE’s Computer magazine and McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record? By writing for their news sections! In some cases, this calls for writing shorter pieces, but in two of these three examples the pay was high and in one the word count was also extensive.

While I was pitching feature ideas to Art&Antiques magazine, some were passed to the associate editor, who was in charge of news items. One of my feature ideas was assigned as a news item and published June 2003 as “Docu-drama”. From there, I just started pitching news to the associate editor.

In the case of IEEE’s Computer magazine, I found their guidelines online and realized they hire freelancers for the news sections. I contacted the news editor and let him know of my availability. I had written about technology and was given a news assignment; Federated Approach Expands Database-Access Technology, which published in May 2003.

In the case of McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record, I received an article of theirs quite randomly. I thought this publication was a good fit, so I contacted them and found that they needed a writer in Ohio to report appropriate news stories (generally brief in nature). My first article for them was published the week of May 5th, titled Producer Protests Pentagon Sealant Specs, Investigates Performance Claims.

After landing these assignments, I began putting together ways to locate and identify magazines that have news departments (or otherwise pay freelancers for news items or articles). One way is to visit local magazine racks and check a publication’s table of contents for the word “News”, denoting a news section. Then, check the masthead for the news editor and contact them, asking if they “hire” freelancers for news assignments. They may have existing assignments or they may require proposals/queries. And, you may have to present your credentials as I did.

If nothing shows up in the table of contents, read the publication for news writing and reporting. If you see news stories or items, or articles written in AP style, you may have a winner. In addition to magazine racks, check all the markets you already know, especially the ones where you have previously but unsuccessfully pitched feature articles. And, of course, offer to write news items for editors with whom you already have an existing relationship.

You will probably find the competition is not as stiff writing news items, especially for magazines where news is not their primary focus. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the pay will be low. In one case I made a dollar a word.

You can also check online guidelines and editorial calendars using the method described in my article How To Locate More Markets, also written for WritersWeekly.com. Just look for News guidelines, “news items”, departments or sections listed among them. In any case, the news editor will often be specifically identified in the masthead information. If a news editor is not in the masthead, but they do publish news, ask the managing editor for guidance on where to send your proposal. Make sure to ask editors about payment if that information hasn’t become apparent. You don’t want to waste time on non-paying markets.

Be prepared to send clips written in AP Style or which provide news on the topics they cover. If you don’t have any, write a few items for your local newspaper – that should suffice along with other clips that show your magazine writing accomplishments.

When it comes to news assignments, ask if they assign them or if they need ideas from you. If they want your ideas, you may find that the best stories are ones that not only excite and interest you but also happen near you, making you the best one to cover them. Also, choose stories that have not yet had a lot of national exposure over ones that have.

Below are a few markets that pay for news articles or items. We found these market by searching google.com for: “writers guidelines” “news items” $

The dollar sign may help to filter out those insulting, non-paying pubs. If no payment amount is listed on a publication’s writer’s guidelines, don’t waste your time. And, some publications don’t pay for news items.

QSR, The magazine of Quick Service Restaurant Success
Digital Journal
http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/?articleID=1792

New England Entertainment Digest
http://www.jacneed.com/writers.html

Canadian Gardening
http://www.canadiangardening.com/guidelines.shtml

Governing Magazine
http://governing.com/wrguide.htm

David Geer is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Geer Communications, a freelance writing services company – Web presence at http://www.geercom.com. David specializes in corporate writing, MarCom, Web writing, technical and business writing and journalism, and general topics. Clients include Art & Antiques, IEEE’s Computer, the Engineering News-Record, VOIR DIRE and other magazines and publications as well as the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, William J. Richter & Associates, Arnold IT (consultants) and other businesses and corporations.