Content for slow summers

Community journalists sweat it out during the summer in more ways than one, and back-to-school brings relief to more than just parents. You see, community newspapers have a tougher time keeping the flow of interesting news and features during the summer months as compared to their counterparts in large markets who have more people, more events and more hard news to report, like crime and politics.

Community newspapers rely a lot on school for content. However, other factors slow the flow of news because businesses have fewer promotions during the summer, many businesses pull back their advertising dollars and there are usually fewer new business start-ups. Down here in Texas where it is so hot during the summers everything slows down a bit with fewer outdoor activities, fundraisers and festivals. Heck, even the longhorn bull across the street from me doesn't move from under a tree during the summer.
Here is way to increase your content with interesting, relative stories: Invent anniversaries.
  1. Make a list of major events that changed your community in past years, such as a new business area, school campus, annual community event that started or major construction that effected an area. Perhaps it could be a newly formed city position, new organization or a major club event. It is not fun, but it can be a harder news story such as a tragedy that effected the community.
  2. Look back in your archives at the past stories, glean much of the body of information from them for a new story and devise a before/after angle to report on. How is the community different since the highway was expanded? How large has the event grown? How has a new administrator improved operations? What has a new charity organization done to improve life in the community?
  3. Severe storm damage is an excellent story to revisit.
    To ad greater significance to the story you very likely can find some type of anniversary to that event or happening. For instance, if the story is a major super store that moved into the area you will find in your newspaper archives there were preliminary meetings, a ground breaking, various construction phases, a ribbon cutting and grand opening, so pick a phase close to the current season and tie that into the story. Soon you writing headlines like “Grandmart looks back on four years in the community” or “Pastor Sponzie recalls first day.”
  4. To save time, use much of the content and photos from your archive and follow up with a quick interview and maybe a new photo.
Here is another idea if you are approaching or have arrived at back-to-school time; arrange to speak with a few teachers and administrators and ask them what is the earliest first day of school they remember and what was their feelings, edit each response into a paragraph and list them on a page with a small headshot of each person. You may already have headshots of teachers and administrators on file and can do the whole thing by phone.

Instant content to ease your hot summer will cool you off better than a snow cone in the shade!


The wonder of blunders

Plans underway to get Americans sick with ebola

That was the online headline from the Associated Press August 1 which was quickly changed to “Plans underway to retrieve Americans sick with ebola.”

We find a lot of humor in goof headlines, be they by oversight, typo or not checking closely what your spell checker suggests.

Rather than sharing a bunch of headlines you can find simply online, I want to share with you my fantastic blunder.

But first, a grand blunder done in the text of a story by an under qualified chief editor I once had the misfortune to work under at a daily paper. The story was about public cleanup day, where residents are encouraged to get their junk out of their yards and garages and take it to the county facility for free disposal. The editor misspelled “Public” and instead wrote “Pubic,”  and to make matters more horrible he ended his story on Pubic Cleanup Day encouraging people to see if their elderly neighbors need help.

My big goof was in the cutline under a front page picture, which was a wonderful photo I took of scores of people releasing purple balloons into the air. The story was Children’s Advocacy Week, and supporters gathered at county courthouses across Texas to hear speeches and released balloons into the air. The cutline read:

“Supporters yesterday joined children advocacy groups around the state in releasing 10,000 baboons at courthouses across Texas”
Ahhhh! The baboons are attacking!

Are you brave enough to share YOUR blunder? Email it here.

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