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How to Write Newspaper Articles

While educating myself with a correspondence writing course, I wrote a number of articles for local newspapers. Although I always wanted to write fiction, the course advised starting with non-fiction and journalism. This is because it is a lot easier to sell a newspaper article than a book, especially if you're writing a piece of local interest and are approaching a local publication.

Having an article published gives you valuable experience in dealing with editors and how they edit (or, in some cases, butcher) your work to make it fit the page.

Writing a gig or theatre review makes an excellent starting point. If the gig is local and you write well, a local paper is likely to use your work. That’s how I started – I wrote a review for a band I played in. Admittedly, this was a bit cheeky, but being in the band meant I knew the music and knew no one else from the paper was there to review the gig. This allowed me to write about the band and the performance convincingly.

To write an article, you need an angle. When the smoking ban was first introduced in the UK, I decided to do a piece on it as I had a friend who ran a local pub. I interviewed him, talking about the impact it was having on his business. The editor loved the local angle and the article went straight in the next edition. A really simple idea, but it worked. By using local contacts, you can produce something unique that no one else might have thought of or be able to write.

I’ve discovered that one thing to avoid when doing this kind of freelance journalism is voicing your own opinion. No one cares what you think. Readers just want the facts so they can make up their own minds. I found editors tend to strip anything out that is opinion based rather than factual. You can describe what happened and allow an interviewee to talk and give their perspective, but your own thoughts are not needed. This technique seems to work well. Remaining unbiased results in a higher success rate.

I can’t really talk in any great depth about this as fiction is my first love and I simply used article writing as a stepping stone to gain experience with having work edited and published. However, the experience I gained from doing this has proved invaluable. For any kind of writer, journalism makes an excellent starting point.

Below are copies of some of the articles I’ve had published in local press; the Bristol Evening Post and the South Avon Mercury.

Bristol Evening Post - Valentine's Day Article - February 14th 2004

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Christopher Fielden Newspaper Article - Valentines - Bristol Evening Post - February 14th 2004

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Mercury - Ye Gods! Gig Review - November 11th 2004

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Christopher Fielden Newspaper Article - Ye Gods - Mercury November 11th 2004

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Mercury - Smoking Ban Article - December 9th 2004

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Christopher Fielden Newspaper Article - Smoking Ban - Mercury December 9th 2004

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Mercury - Brain Busters - February 3rd 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Brain Busters - Mercury February 3rd 2005

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Mercury - Valentine's Day Article - February 3rd 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Valentines Day Article - Mercury February 3rd 2005

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Bristol Evening Post - Vic Du Monte - April 28th 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Vic Du Monte Newspaper Article - Bristol Evening Post - April 28th 2005

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Mercury - Vic Du Monte - September 29th 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Vic Du Monte's Persona Non Grata Article - Mercury September 29th 2005

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Bristol Evening Post - Vic Du Monte - September 29th 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Vic Du Monte Article - Bristol Evening Post September 29th 2005

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Mercury - Ye Gods! Album Release - December 8th 2005

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Christopher Fielden - Ye Gods gig - Mercury December 8th 2005

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Mercury - Portishead Carnival Article - March 30th 2006

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Chris Fielden - Portishead Carnival Newspaper Article - Mercury March 30th 2006

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Mercury - Lands End to John O Groats Charity Ride - June 2007

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Chris Fielden - Lands End to John O Groats Charity Bicycle Ride Article - June 2007

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Stan P
Hello. I'm from Pittsburgh, PA. Every time I contact a newspaper outside of Pittsburgh (National and Regional Newspapers) I get turned down because I am not local. How can I get published in other newspapers when they only accept local writers.

Chris Fielden
Hi Stan. In my experience, for local papers, you have to come up with a story with a local angle. That was the only way I got into them, apart from in Bristol (where I live) because I’m a local writer. Or tie a story in with local events.

For example, I sent bacon into space once (crazy project…) and got into a Wiltshire (UK) area newspaper and on the local radio because they had an event all about locally sourced ham (Wiltshire is famous for it). Bit of an extreme example, but hopefully you see what I mean. The bacon in the project made it newsworthy for that area at that time.

Re the nationals: you’d need a really strong story to get into one of them – it’s very competitive and they often have in-house staff to contend with too. Still, if the story is strong and original and/or you have a unique interview or information or something newsworthy, most editors would still consider it.

I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I wrote for a newspaper – about 6 or 7 years – but that was my experience of it at the time.

I hope that’s helpful.