Free Newspaper Publicity

Using newspapers for free publicity.

By D. W. McKay, Layman, New York City

Perhaps the best form of free advertising is still through the columns of the newspapers. The newspaper is found every­where, and is the most widely read of all modern literature. Millions who never open a book or a magazine eagerly devour its pages daily.

In preparing an article for publication, try to place yourself in the position of the editor. He is the dispenser of news for his particular community or group of readers. Generally, a newspaper is not published for any one class of people, but for all classes, and all classes are represented in its columns. The editor probably knows little or nothing about Sev­enth-day Adventists, except possibly that they are a small religious denomination whose mem­bers go to church on Saturday. Thus, it is imperative that you give him something that has news value for his readers.

There Are many sources of news. During the 1946 New Jersey and West Pennsylvania camp meetings it was my privilege to write the various flews releases. I found that the newspapers in all the near-by large cities will­ingly accepted and published whatever was submitted;: Some of the large city newspapers devoted front-page headlines to announce our meetings,, the election of officers with accompanying: photographs, and our phenomenal mis­sionary progress, and gave columns to the explanation of our peculiar doe-trines, beliefs, habits: of dress, and practice of tithing. In fact, one of the newspapers was so impressed with our reports that they assigned one of their reporters to cover the happenings for the re­mainder of the encampment. The editor of one of the local city newspapers personally visited the evening meetings whenever one of our outstanding speakers was announced.

Whenever possible, I secured copies of the various statistical reports days before they were to be read before a biennial session. From these reports I gleaned pertinent facts which I thought might be of news interest to the public. Each article was marked on the upper left-hand corner with the date when it might be released for publication. Thus, only a few hours after each report was read, it was being sold on the newsstands.

I tried to interview each speaker well in ad­vance of the meeting in which he was sched­uled to speak, to ascertain the topic he in­tended to discuss. From my general knowledge of the particular subject, I wrote the article on the sermon of the evening in condensed form long before it was delivered. It was then delivered personally or by special-delivery mail to the editor the same day, in order to ensure adequate time for publication the fol­lowing day. Evangelistic efforts could be pub­licized in the newspapers without cost in like manner.

Many believe that all that is necessary to have something printed in a newspaper is to jot down all the facts, and the editor or one of his assistants will write the article in suit­able form for publication. But this is not the case. Editors do not have time to rewrite. They merely approve or delete material sub­mitted. Generally speaking, a well-prepared article on an uninteresting subject has a bet­ter chance of getting into print than a poorly written article on a vital subject. Just scan your evening newspaper for proof.

You may be encouraged to know that the editor will give your article just as much consideration as one written by one of his paid reporters. But do not be disappointed if your entire article is not printed. It is merely because space does not permit, not because the editor has a personal grudge against you or against Seventh-day Adventists. All large city newspapers receive much more news than they can possibly use. The advertisements always come first. They are not condensed, because they are the source of revenue of the newspaper. Whatever space remains is alloted to the various departments. Your article may be given to the religious news editor, the State editor, or the city editor. depending upon its classification.

Preparing the Newspaper Article

In writing a newspaper article, always be sure that it is readable and neat. Use a type­writer. If one is not available, print or write legibly. A sloppy article always gives a bad  impression which is difficult to overcome. Although your article may be good, it may not even be read if it is prepared in a slovenly manner.

Don't crowd the page. Paper is cheap. Leave a margin of at least one inch on both sides of the paper. Use double or triple spacing on the typewriter. Single-spaced material is hard to read in a hurry, and the editor may want to insert subheadings or change words and punctuation. Leave at least one third of the first page blank, so that the editor may write the heading there, or he may insert instructions in this space.

Every newspaper story begins with the most important facts first. Other items should fol­low in the order of their importance. The heading and the first sentence either attract or repel a reader. A good opening paragraph with the essential facts will generally get the rest of the article in print. If you are not satisfied with your first attempt, rewrite and rewrite until you are satisfied that what you have written is as good as any article you may have noticed in the newspaper.

A newspaper article should be so written that if lack of space does not permit its com­plete publication, paragraphs can be deleted from the end without destroying the power of the story or its meaning. Do not use com­plicated phrases and sentences. Write as sim­ply as possible, so that you make yourself clear. Repeat a name rather than use a pronoun if you think you might be misunderstood. Do not use a long word where a short word will serve the purpose.

Short paragraphs are the order of the day. They make reading easier. Look at one of the large city dailies. Very few paragraphs are more than two or three inches in length.

Be sure that your name and address are on either the first or the last page of the article, or else all your efforts may be wasted. News­papers are responsible for the items which ap­pear in their columns. The editor may want to authenticate the facts, or may desire addi­tional information and photographs for publi­cation. He will then know the proper person with whom to communicate.

Rules and suggestions are helpful in writing for the newspapers, but the best teacher is practice. If you have neglected this field of free advertising for our message, sit down and write. Since we are a peculiar people, and our teachings are out of the ordinary, that is news. You will be well repaid for your efforts when you see your first article in the news­paper. Thousands and thousands will read it. Think of the great possibilities. Do not put it off. Ministers should report their sermons every week to their local newspaper. All you can lose is the cost of a postage stamp, and the experience wilt at least improve your tech­nique. Try it!

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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By D. W. McKay, Layman, New York City

February 1941

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