If you like to be involved in community events, you could write a short weekly column for the community section of your local newspaper. It’s probably not as hard to break into as you suspect. Plus having a by-line there means getting published regularly — and paid weekly, in some cases.
One of our past workshop attendees, Karen, has been writing a few paragraphs a week for The Oregonian in Portland, the state’s largest newspaper. And you could easily follow in her footsteps — writing for that same publication or one like it in your own hometown.
All it takes to get started is an interest in what’s going on around you — particularly in your neighborhood.
You don’t have to have any published clips to start. Karen didn’t. She’d written press releases and edited reports — the sort of thing many professionals deal with — but didn’t have any travel writing or newspaper stories under her belt.
However, she’s involved in her community and knows local business owners. She and her husband like to go to the farmers market, shop in independently owned boutiques, and attend plays at the local theater, among other seasonal events.
If you’re a regular in the cafes and shops of your community — or you’re aware of events that are happening around your home — your local paper may be in need of someone like you to write a weekly column about your area.
In Karen’s case, The Oregonian was looking for “neighborhood correspondents.” They needed writers to cover smaller events, awards, school announcements and ceremonies that don’t make front page news, but are interesting to people living in the smaller towns and communities surrounding Portland.
Every Monday, Karen sends her short article to the Oregonian and they pay her $50 for her piece. She’s covered news items such as citizen of the year, business openings, business closings, and activities like Spirit of Christmas and the Farmers Market.
With correspondents like Karen, The Oregonian doesn’t need to send reporters to scout out all of the neighborhoods surrounding Portland. Instead, they can pay locals $50 a week — and $50 more for photos — to send news to them. (I’ll do the math for you: Those correspondents who send photos with their articles are making $400 a month.)
And they’re short pieces, too. Community correspondent articles in The Oregonian are limited to about 160 words (that’s just a couple paragraphs) and focus on one or two news items per week.
Most large newspapers have similar community news sections. Often, larger neighborhoods are already assigned correspondents, so check your newspaper for a section on your neighborhood to see if it’s getting covered. If it isn’t (and even if it is), you could contact the editor with a query and suggest a few ideas of events you’d like to cover.
You can use one or two interesting story ideas to boost interest in you as a regular writer. For five effective query letter strategies, see this article in our archives, written by Jennifer Stevens, author of the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program: http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/?p=279
Don’t be afraid to give it a try. With a little knowledge of your hometown and some smooth query letter techniques, you could easily become a local reporter.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]