A minor political scandal broke in small Mississippi town where I was living, and local paper scrambled to cover all angles. Unfortunately, most of their writers lived in larger cities at least 50 miles away -- which, if you know Mississippians, might as well be in another country.
The initial stories were peppered with inaccuracies about town and political scene. Like rest of locals, I was irritated by all errors, and almost stopped reading paper altogether. But then, one day, I noticed little sprites, dancing all over paper. Could those possibly be ... dollar sign$?
I sat down and dashed off a bold letter to editor, proposing a follow-up story with quotes from residents and an interview with political whistleblower -- who just happened to live 2 houses away from me, and often gave me gardening advice. I had no clips at time, unless you count poetry contest I won in 11th grade.
But within 24 hours, I had an assignment.
Weeklies, small dailies and regional tabloids lack cachet of big, metro papers or national glossies; they are often overlooked by freelancers. A working writer can find some golden opportunities with a simple letter of introduction and a few follow- up phone calls.
1. Identify editors of small newspapers, shoppers' guides and local publications in your area who need to produce regular features, news items with a local spin, and home-grown human interest stories. If you live in a very small town, take a look at next county as well.
2. Don't forget about businesses that send out regular newsletters, like tourist bureaus, Rotary Club and local junior college. Someone has to write that copy -- why not you?
3. Pare down your list based on your own writing skills and interests. If you understand education issues, pitch a school resource guide to Chamber of Commerce; they get requests from new residents and visitors all time. If finance is your beat, write a piece called "How to Make Your Vacation Pay for Itself" for regional travel mag. Like to write about food? Propose a new cooking or restaurant column to weekly paper.