Across the Universe: The good, bad and ugly when sending story submissions
I often get requests from residents to write a story and/or take a photo about an important community event.
Sometimes, I have to decline, but it’s not because we feel the event isn’t important, or that key players aren’t worthy of recognition. And while I may say, “sorry, we can’t,” most times I follow it quickly with, “but here’s what you can do to help us out.”
We live in a modern era of community journalism, which carries an understanding that newspapers cannot devote resources to events like they have in the past.
These days, many happenings in our communities — and really, in communities around our size across America — aren’t covered like “they used to.” Newspapers are reinventing, with thinner staffs, how they manage their editors’ and reporters’ time during a given workweek.
This is where you come into play. While we pride ourselves on the quality content we produce, we still rely on a healthy amount of what we in the industry call “User Generated Content” — or, perhaps a more familiar term is i-reporting — to keep our readers informed.
As we like to say, it’s your input that makes the Sierra Sun shine, and I always encourage residents to continue flooding my voicemail and email inboxes with news and information.
With that in mind, there are things to consider when submitting information, things that often will ensure we print the content — or that ensure we will not. Here’s a quick rundown.
The good: The most important thing is to send a concise, encompassing email for editorial submissions with a subject line that clearly says something like “community event” or “story.” If applicable, attach 1-2 high-resolution .jpg images, and include photo credit and caption (especially if people can be identified). If you don’t feel comfortable writing a “press release,” there’s nothing wrong with a concise few paragraphs that have the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why/how), along with a physical address, phone number and website (if applicable).
The bad: Sending multiple emails and/or including us on an email string with a lot of people is a big way to damage the process in getting your event or item published. Further, attaching too many photos, rather than 1-2 of the best images, is frowned upon, because it increases the size of an email, making it that much harder to open (and sometimes, photos don’t even make it). Also, don’t send submissions that are not text enabled. PDFs, and Excel or spreadsheets are a no-no. A straight text or word document is best.
The ugly: Sometimes, it takes us awhile to respond to your email. This is not because we are brushing your item aside — it is because we are constantly shifting priorities during a week’s workload, and we make judgment calls several times an hour that change things. Also, we sometimes will not publish an article for awhile. This is due to space-availability; sometimes, it must simply wait in line. Of course, should it take a full week and you hear no response, then a polite courtesy email or phone call would be in order.
But, if you get overly frustrated with our speed and act immature or send us inappropriate messages or comments, well, that line is going to get a lot longer.
And then, no one wins.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun. He may be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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