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Become A Copywriter

If you want to become a copywriter, and have some skills but no experience, it is even more possible today than in the past to nudge your way into a newsroom setting. Newspapers around the country, even small ones, are experiencing declining revenues and declining newsroom staff.

It may not be a great time to enter the newspaper business, but it's a great time to offer your services for cheap and get some constructive, and free, instruction from an experienced editor. Newspapers rely on freelance writers and stringers for a lot of stories they don't have the staff to cover.

This advise may sound bold, but in the 10 years that I have worked as a newspaper editor, most recently as managing editor, I have seen it work dozens of times. Newspapers editors need copywriters, but today there is no money for more writers on staff.

The first thing you need to do, if you haven't already done so, is hone your writing skills. There are many Web sites, such as college.cengage.com, that offer writing tests.

It's important to note that news writing is a discipline all its own; but to become a sought-after copywriter, you need some kind of background in writing for the public, and blogging doesn't always open doors.

Look at your local newspaper to see the kinds of things the editor assigns. You may want to peruse the calendar section and find an event that you think would be a good fit for that newspaper. If you've decided to write about an upcoming event, write questions to ask the person in charge of it.

Be honest when you call the event coordinator. Tell him that you are writing a story about his event to submit to the newspaper for possible publication. He will likely relish the idea of getting a little free publicity. Sometimes you'll need to meet for an interview, and sometimes a phone interview is more convenient.

As you take notes during the conversation (recorders are allowable as long as you get permission from the person you are interviewing), listen for things that would make good direct quotes in your story, write them exactly as spoken and put notations to the side that they are exact quotes.

Now it's time to put your story together. The first paragraph is very important. Look at first paragraphs in the newspaper you're trying to break into to get a feel for the ԶoiceԠthat is used. Some writers will wait until they have completed the story and then come back to write the opening paragraph.

When you're finished, query the newspaper editor through e-mail, but keep it brief, and paste your story to the e-mail (do not attach it unless invited to do so). Follow up the next day with a call to the editor to find out if your e-mail was received. This is also a good time to pitch your services and find out what stringers and freelancers are paid.


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