September 25, 2010

Keep writing

This is the last blog I am writing in this series, Communication Matters.

Next week, on Thursday, October 7, I will be holding a text chat session for the Knowledge Centre. The time will be announced on the Knowledge Centre website. During that session you will be able to ask questions which might have occurred to you when reading these blogs.

Today I want to finish this series of blogs by assuring you that if you are passionate about writing, it will happen. Believe in yourself, keep at it, even when you feel down after every suggestion you have put to a commissioning editor has been rejected.

Don't lose faith in your writing or yourself.

You might not start by writing for national papers or a top-selling glossy magazine - but if you start small you have the chance to grow. And anyway, who is saying that writing for a small circulation, but niche publication which has a passionate readership, is not as good as writing for a well-known title?

The world of journalism - especially online news - is now open to everyone. It has come of age. If you are a good writer, maintain high ethical standards, are passionate about what you write, interested in who you interview, determined to leave no stone unturned in your search for the truth, fascinated by learning new facts and think the world ought to know, then you will make a great journalist.

You can start by writing your own blog.

However, you may also want to contribute to your local newspaper or county magazine with a submission for print or online. Local newspapers are grateful for well-written stories about the area, its business and people.

Though media watchers talk about the end of print - in truth, no one knows what the future holds. In fact, last week Tindle Newspapers launched three more new weekly print titles in London - all focussing tightly on specific communities.

The three new papers - the Barnet & Potters Bar Press, the Hendon & Finchley Press and the Edgware and Mill Hill Press - will be distributed free door-to-door to nearly 90,000 homes.

The move follows the launch by Tindle Newspapers of four other ultra local titles in March as part of Sir Ray Tindle's efforts to create local community newspapers across the country.

Tindle Newspapers publishes more than 200 newspapers in England & Wales, many of them more than 100 years old.

Apart from print publications, there are a number of online news sites which welcome submissions and they are great places for building a journalism portfolio. Most of these sites offer guidelines to writers.

Many newspaper groups have launched hyperlocal sites.
Hyperlocal websites are sites that focus on the community in a small part of the paper's circulation area. These sites welcome contributions. Take a look at one of the hyperlocal maps

In August 2010, Trinity Mirrorlaunched 34 hyperlocal sites linked to its newspaper title the Birmingham Mail.

Last year, The Daily Mail & General Trust launched 50 hyperlocal sites
as a trial in the south west of England. The sites, which include falmouthpeople.co.ukand
bidefordpeople.co.uk, cover areas with between 10,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. All these hyperlocal sites aim to encourage interaction with the public by allowing users to create profiles, write and publish stories, upload images, form
groups and rate and review other content and message each other.

Newsquest launched a raft of hyperlocal websites for its Midlands
titles. The Kidderminster Shuttlehas 30 sites (examples Bewdleyand Stourport.
All of them rely on community correspondents, people who are not trained journalists but are actively involved in the community, to give them news.

William Perrin is the champion of hyperlocal sites. He says on his Kings Cross site: 'I am a community activist in Kings Cross, London, and in my spare time work with residents to clean up our neighbourhood. This site is about the challenges we face locally and how we tackle them.
I have lived in London's Kings Cross on and off since 1995 ...... I got heavily involved in improving the local environment when a car stuffed full of fireworks exploded outside my flat in Autumn 2002.
At that time the area around Rufford Street was in chaos - littered with burned-out cars, the streets piled high with rubbish, endemic anti-social behaviour, drug-addicted sex workers everywhere.
The community has pulled together since then and turned the area around working with the council, the police and the voluntary sector. I am also a non-executive board member of CYP the excellent local youth charity.
I recently took a sabbatical from my civil service job to set up TalkAboutLocal to inform people about the benefits of grassroots community websites more widely.
I moved about a mile from Kings Cross recently but still keep up the website with the team and local activism.”

That's what hyperlocal sites are about. Grassroots journalism, community interaction and support.  They do all the things that local newspapers used to do, but many can no longer achieve because of the public’s change in reading and buying habits and the drastic cuts in journalist staff numbers on local papers.

In this new breed of online papers are particular niche sites such as Women's Views on News, an online daily news and current affairs service launched by writer Alison Clarke and put together by a volunteer collective of women journalists from around the world.  The stories featured are always about women.  This site welcomes ideas and stories. Most sites, just like Women's Views on News, have guidelines for contributors such as who to send material to, what the site is looking for, how long the piece is etc etc.

Citizen media start-up AllVoicesis a global 'community' which encourages users to contribute news and commentary by mobile phone or online. AllVoices ranks news events based on the activity they are generating on the Web at large.

One of the most successful sites built from reader contributions is US website, The Huffington Post. It was launched in May 2005 as a commentary outlet.

Now it offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy as well as news. It has a core group of contributors and some 3,000 bloggers and specialists who deliver copy in real-time on a wide range of subjects.

People want to know what's going on in their city, town, neighbourhood and street. Someone has to provide that information.

That someone could easily be you.


Sally Ballard is the tutor for the accredited 25-week online certificate course, Writing for Publication, run by Warwick University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning  starting in October 2010. For details see
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/ study/cll/open_courses/certs/ writing_features/




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