Last week we talked about learning to “string” for small-town papers. The workshop I’ve been offering for The Writers’ Center emphasizes gaining credentials for authoring (or submitting a book to an agent, for instance) by getting published in newspapers.
You can practice using some principles for writing for small-town newspaper articles:
- keep it local. People can get news from the world by turning on the TV. They subscribe to small-town papers because they want to know about their neighbors.
- keep it local. Details that would not appeal in a large city newspaper story can be interesting in smaller towns: a different, or even routine, court cases, new ordinances, new businesses which have popped up on Main Street.
- Focus on human interest, and that is a broad topic in a small town: high school achievers, grade school classes or happenings, sports achievements, humorous incidents in a neighborhood, pet stories, local boy or girl makes good in New York City, police or fire department excitement.
- The rules of basic journalism apply: in your lead you should cover who, what, when, where and sometimes how.
Here’s a writing exercise that you can practice with: write a news story, or even just a lead, for this article for the Grastown Gazette. It’s made up of course, but based on real stories in real small-town Indiana:
In Grastown, Indiana, home of the Grastown Gazette, a weekly paper operated out of offices of the Logansport News, school has started. Traffic has been rerouted so the grade and high schools in the edges of the town can be reached by the buses and cars. Seniors have lunch privileges to go off campus but comment there is nowhere to go. People are still complaining because the Dairy Queen closed and though it has been 10 years since that happened, the Sylvester Stalcup family, which owned the restaurant for years, still has people meet them on the street and at church and say “Why did you do that?” Not enough business and too many late hours doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory answer for local aficionados of the blizzard and $5 lunch. Some girls are not back to finish their senior year at the high school. That is the usual story as junior girls and sometimes some younger ones find they are expecting a baby and have quick marriages. The percentage of pregnancy dropouts is down from 6.3% of the graduating class in 2000 to 3.3 in 2015. School lunches have been improved says school spokesperson Sharon Delong. “We are trying to have more pasta and healthy dishes like sour-cream kale salad and ciltrano/parsley chip dip.” Students surveyed by the Gazette showed they did not care for kale. “Like chips of green rope,” said one senior on the football team. The school board released statistics that show that of last year’s graduating class at Graston High , 67% have entered colleges in state and a few out. This is a marked increase over past years. For example the last two years show a matriculation rate for students from Graston of 44% in 2014 and 53% in 2015.
Get writing your articles and become a published and polished writer!
You can see Nancy Baxter’s book by clicking back to the Hawthorne website.
Or take a class at Indiana Writers Center