How to Snag the Best Hometown Stories
Snorting steers, six deep for a city block, clomp down Tejon Street with wild eyes. Riding horseback, ranch hands in leather chaps and cowboy hats keep them in line. Pikes Peak offers up a 14,000-foot backdrop. And, for a few minutes, you get the distinct feeling that this town really is part of the old, authentic west.
This once-a-year tradition kicks off the Ride for the Brand Rodeo.
But I missed the story. Because even though I sat on the curb saying, “I should really sell an article about this to an airline in-flight magazine,” I didn’t do anything to make it happen.
You see, in-flight editors always like to have hometown stories written by hometown people. But to ensure you can deliver as a local “expert,” you’ve got to have the goods when the editor needs them.
And that means stories that could run any time as well as stories that are time-sensitive.
For instance, an editor could run a piece about the Garden of the Gods (a local tourist attraction here) any month of the year. But she could only print a story on the Ride for the Brand Rodeo in the weeks before it occurs — so readers would have time to get to it.
To ensure you can offer editors both sorts of pieces, take up these three habits:
** 1) Carry a little notebook and pen in your pocket — even if you aren’t headed out to “cover” a story. You just never know when you’ll come upon one.
I could have easily turned to the folks sitting to my left and asked what had brought them there and how they liked what they saw. But I didn’t have a notebook in my pocket.
So instead of being able to pitch that story to a magazine for publication this summer, I’ll have to go again this coming July 4th and pitch the story to a magazine for an issue next summer. Talk about “you snooze you lose.”
**2) When you’re headed out to an event (a festival, a weekend art walk, a movie in the park, a cattle drive down your main street) — even if you have no intention of writing about it — bring your camera anyway. If you have photos, you can often fill in the details for a story afterwards. But without the photos, you’ll find that story a lot harder to sell.
** 3) Use your camera to take notes. You needn’t ruin a perfectly good outing by spending the whole time ignoring your friends and family while you scribble notes. Instead, shoot a picture of that Historic Landmark sign so you’ll have a copy of the full text to refresh your memory later. Or put that restaurant menu on your lap and take a quick shot. That way you’ll have all the prices and the correct spelling for each entrée recorded.
[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.]