My friend Vox wrote an excellent post this morning on getting mainstream media to pay attention to issues that don’t get enough coverage. Not only that, but her guide includes tips that any writer who wants to break into newspapers can use.
Write a lede that is one or two sentences long and says, without any adjectives or colorful language, exactly what the story is writing about. Here’s a good example from Fox News: “Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa condemned the Police Department’s use of force against demonstrators and reporters at an immigration rally, saying he was ‘deeply, personally troubled’ by the clash.” [This is harder than it sounds. I still struggle with this, of course–I’m just starting out–but I know even well-established journalists have to pay special attention to their ledes. A class I was in last semester spent about seven weeks on writing ledes only–and half the students still hadn’t got it by the end.]
Use “said” or “asked” when quoting someone. Do not use “shouted,” “whined,” or anything else. There are exceptions to this, but when in doubt, just avoid it. [I’m so glad I’m done with professors who hand out “Words to use in place of ‘said'” sheets in their writing classes. Yes, people actually do this, and I’m baffled as to why. It’s not doing anyone any favors to make students think that using a thesaurus indiscriminately–especially for dialogue tags–is good writing.]
There are more tips at the original post. I’d like to see a follow-up post about how to actually get your story seen by an editor (which maybe I’ll tackle later), but this is a great start. Check it out here.