How to make sure your news gets out to our readers

Each week we get calendar listings, business happenings, school accomplishments and other news that our readers, and getting these items into the pipeline for publication is one of the most important elements of our week.

But depending on how readers get this information to us, some of the news is far easier to get into the Spirit. I wanted to share a few suggestions in hopes of making the process work better both for selfish reasons (this would make my life easier) but also as a way to help any of you get your news out to any news outlets you may work with (a small offering of community service on my part).

My first tip would be to convey as much important news in the subject line as you can. For instance, so many of the emails I get put only the words NEWS RELEASE in that space. I’m in a hurry scanning through emails and that does nothing to help me know whether this is a message I need to read today or one with a longer shelf life.

How much more helpful would it be to see something along the lines of “For Community Calendar for June 11 and 18”?

A good news release succinctly includes the who, what, where, when and how as well as a phone number or email to get more information. Looking over the way information is presented in our Community Calendar and elsewhere in the paper gives you a good idea of the kind of information we’re looking for and likely to include.

Being able to reach our readers is also important. Last week, our office manager Cara Young accepted a note with some school news. After the woman had left, Cara read over the note and realized it neglected to include the name of the school or where it’s located – must-have information for putting together even a basic item for the paper.

Compounding the problem, the person didn’t leave any contact information with Cara or on the sheet of paper she brought to us. In an ideal world, I might have the time to spend on Google to match up the name in the reader’s note with a phone number, address or email. Then I could get in touch and get the additional information and include the news in the paper. I don’t think the Spirit is alone in finding it all but impossible to free up the time to track down individual news items that way.

Along a similar line: Handwritten or typed news releases or letters to the editor create barriers to publication. Years ago, most newspapers employed a typist as well as other employees whose jobs involved at least some time keyboarding in information. But because most news comes in via email these days, typing isn’t included in anyone’s official duties. Any items that arrive “the old-fashioned way” mean someone will get an unwanted bonus to his or her already full workload.

Frankly, I find it nerve-wracking to puzzle over a stranger’s handwriting and it’s also time-consuming. While any single item might take only 10 minutes to type, some weeks, we might have a half-dozen or more items that come in this way and that adds up.

It’s essential, I would say, that the person who submits news for a club or organization use email. Sending in news by email also makes it easy to send along a photo – we’re always pleased to have a nice, clear picture with an uncluttered background to include in the paper.

Especially since my husband Rob Snyder’s recent health crisis put him on the newsroom sidelines (he’s working some, to be sure, including writing an editorial for this week’s paper, taking some photos and spending time at his drawing table but he’s not yet full-time or full-tilt) and prompted us to ask for help, we see putting out the Spirit as a joint effort – the news stories we professional journalists on staff research and write are important, but the contributions of our community are essential, too.

Let me also thank you for reading our paper, and for all the kind wishes that continue to come to us – both about Rob’s health and also my sanity working on the newspaper without him. Everyone on the Spirit staff is pitching in to get us through and we’ve had letters and columns that have arrived unsolicited but much-appreciated to help fill up each edition with good things. It means a lot to know the editions we’re putting together during this challenging time are being read and enjoyed.

Finally, a word about Tuesday’s election in Ranson. The polls closed hours after this edition had to be at the printer in Cumberland, Md., so please check the Spirit’s Facebook page for the results.

— Christine Snyder

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