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Newspaper Articles

Posted by Barb52 z4NorthernWY (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 25, 05 at 10:03

Hi Everyone,
I am new to this forum. I have been an active Master Gardener for 4 years and now our President. We are new at writing a newspaper column and need help. I have published several articles myself, but want others to get involved. Does anyone have experience in how to do this? Who is responsible for editing the articles, other than the newspaper? Should I have the writer submit the column to me or a group? I do not want to upset anyone, but want the article correct. I do have an retired English teacher willing to look for errors. All of this came about because my article was edited by our publicity chair without my permission. I thought she should of at least asked me if she had questions before editing. She did not know what somthing meant so just took it out. She now says I should submit articles directly to the newspaper. I want the writer to be consulted about any changes. Help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Newspaper Articles

And now we enter the brutal arena of editing ...

Writing is such an easy thing to do -- until you try it yourself. It gets even worse when you try to get it past someone who proofreads and edits your work. If you plan to continue writing, you had better have a tough hide. The staff of technical writers I formerly worked with used to describe the way their "perfect" material was returned to them from the editor; "It came back dripping with blood.", in reference to the editor's red pencil.

In all fairness, if this person who was editing took something out because she did not understand it, your reading audience probably would not have understood it either. Ideally, if time would allow, she should have consulted and/or returned it to you for clarification. However, sometimes deadlines have to be met.

I am not quite sure why you even want a newspaper column. Is this to be a regular column? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Expecting others to submit articles seems a bit optimistic. In other words ... Dream on! It just isn't going to happen. It is not that people won't say they will do it; it is just that they will typically never get around to actually doing it.

I think you need to take a few steps back and think this one through a bit more. If this is going to become a project that only generates hurt feelings, it is perhaps better avoided.

IronBelly


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RE: Newspaper Articles

I've been writing for the Napa County MasterGardeners for about 5 years. Here is how our system as evolved.

The newspaper committee chair comes up with subjects for the season and askes people who would like to write to sign up. Then 3 weeks before the article is due she has the person send it to her for proof reading and accuracy. She may confer with the writer to clarify things. Then it is submiedt to a person in our group who is a professional writer. If she gets it early enough, questions are sent back and forth for more clarification. Then it is sent to the newspapers for publication. We publish in 3 of the newspapers in our valley.

Persons who can not take editing soon drop out. I have written for various club publications for years and learned along time ago that editing is part of the game. New people are told to expect editing. We don't have a shortage of people willing to write.

Penny


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RE: Newspaper Articles

Penny,

It sounds like your group has its act together. However, I suspect that your group is probably a lot larger than Barb's in northern Wyoming. Some types of projects require a large enough group of people to develop a "critical mass". I belong to a large group myself and see that we can accomplish a few things that prove problematic for smaller groups. It issue is often simply the size of the human pool from which to draw.

I personally love visiting the smaller groups of Master Gardeners because I grew up outside of a small town. I am always impressed with how much they accomplish with the small number of volunteers many of those groups utilize to absolutely thrive.

Perhaps I am mistaken (and I am sure Barb will correct me) but I can see problems looming if Barb were to try and dictate policy here. After all, we are dealing with a bunch of unpaid volunteers. Maybe this is a more of an occasional project rather than taking on something that may become a burden, prone to causing hard feelings.

Napa Valley is blessed with the apparent number of qualified writers. Not all of us are that fortunate. However, the things we do, we tend to do well. I just suggest concentrating upon what your group does well and slowly venture into new territory.

IronBelly


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RE: Newspaper Articles

  • Posted by Barb52 z4NorthernWY (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 26, 05 at 1:06

There are about 40 of us and about 10 are very active. Our problem is more that we are divided between 2 towns that are 30 miles apart. We have to work very hard to cement the organization and divide our meeting places. We could not manage without e-mail. The column would be monthly so it should not be difficult to come up with 12 articles a year. I am meeting with the publisher Friday. Penny I am optomistic and thank you for your input. Iron Belly I tend to try harder the more someone says it can't be done. I am going to try to make this a joint effort. I have been delegating quite a bit because I have a tendency to exhaust myself. I believe that most of our group will jump at the chance to write an article. We are all pretty dedicated. My complaint with the person was that I was not consulted. She is a garden writer, but the information she took out was very basic and we are not meeting a deadline. I think having a committee is the way to go. I think that each writer should reflect his own personality and we should only make small editing suggestions. I do expect the information to be factual though.
Barb


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RE: Newspaper Articles

Ah, newspaper articles. This is something our county has just started at the request of the locale Lifestyles Editor for the paper. The Master Gardener coordinator asked for volunteer writers and I am one. He figured if 10 volunteers wrote 5 articles each then he could write the other two which would cover every week for a year. As with anything this has its good and bad points. The good point is it will give people experience and exposure, the bad thing is it relieves the paper from hiring someone and paying them to write gardening articles. The way it has worked so far is the coordinator has published more of his articles than any other single author. All articles are sent to the Extension office where they are edited by the coordinator and the county agent to make sure they conform to Extension rules and regulations, then they are sent to the paper for further editing. Everything goes forward. There is no feedback to the writers on how their articles are edited or even as to when and if they will appear in the paper. Not the Master Gardeners but other editors have edited my work to say "Eddie was born and bread in Georgia" I'm sure you see the error there and another editor corrected my spelling of Callaway Gardens to Calloway Gardens. Of course Callaway is correct. I have had people change crape myrtle to crepe myrtle, not that many know the difference from what I see on the Internet. I was reading one article in a newsletter and thought "Wonder who wrote that?" I was surprised to see my name on it. Thereafter I referred to that particular editor as the butcher.
I sent in my quota of five articles for the year in a matter of days then when the newspaper editor decided on a whim at the last minute she wanted an article on Poinsettias for the Christmas issue I had it submitted 45 minutes later. But there is dissention among the volunteer writers simply because there is no feedback and we have asked for a meeting but none have been arranged, so as always the system may have to once again deal with attrition, at least in this small area.


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RE: Newspaper Articles

  • Posted by Barb52 z4NorthernWY (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 26, 05 at 9:45

Eddie,
Ouch! I hope we don't have the same editing problem. I have had a problem with spell check not recognizing words so I wonder if that is what is happening. I wrote a sentence about seed starting and used the term "directly seeded into the ground" and "seeded" is not a recognized word. I would imagine your writers will think twice about submitting any more articles and it would be a shame if they did not contribute.
I am not sure how to avoid having our articles sent to the extension office. The problem is that our advisor only works a couple of days a week and it would take her months to approve an article. Our newsletter editor is pulling her hair our to get the newsletter approved every other month.
I also put someone in charge of an a.m. talk show so our first program is in a couple of weeks. I always thought we should be out in the community more and it makes me feel good that this is now happening. I can't take all the credit since others feel the same way, but under past leadership the focus was on education, meetings and contributing to a couple of hands on events, such as Arbor Day. How do you guys do your volunteer hours?
Barb


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RE: Newspaper Articles

This is a good discussion that is probably of interest across the country. The whole issue of dealing with newspaper articles and/or newsletters is a mixed bag. Some groups handle these chores with aplomb but for many groups, it is a constant hurdle.

I think a lot of problems arise when we try (often subconsciously) to mold our volunteer organizations to fit a business model. Sans the carrot and stick of financial remuneration, any person assuming leadership of MG groups is put at a serious disadvantage. (God bless every one of them.) Instead of financial reward being the driving force for workers, one must now maneuver and sometimes manipulate the emotional mine field of human nature.

Instead of giving orders, a leader must give inspiration. Instead of assigning tasks, a leader must groom cooperative participation. Simply trying harder when someone says no, merely assumes the posture of a business model which rarely works in nonprofit, volunteer organizations. The net result is typically what Eddie spoke of: " ... as always the system may have to once again deal with attrition ..."

I would be interested to hear how other groups from around the country are dealing with these issues. I am certain that problems in this area are not limited to the state of Wyoming. I hope that your meeting this Friday goes well, Barb. Please keep us updated because I think you have touched on a topic that a lot of other folks are also dealing with.

IronBelly


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RE: Newspaper Articles

I nominate Ironbelly as our moderator of this discussion. Barb, to reiterate, I think when our articles go through three different layers of editors that is too much. Things get changed and the process is slowed down. The lack of bringing all the writers together for a brainstorming session and a discussion of policy is regrettable as is the lack of ANY feedback. If nothing else, I hope you give the writers you have delegated some feedback. While we're talking about feedback let me tell this story: a local writers group asked the members to bring something to be read and critiqued by the group. I read my piece (as did everyone) and there was applause and a few "that was nice" and on to the next person. I WAS MAD. I came seeking a serious critique of my work not polite praise, I can get that from my mother. My point is if there are mistakes or things that need correcting in someones work, find a nice way to tell them but do tell them. You do them no favors otherwise. In your case Barb, you need to find someone else to help approve articles and newsletters before your writers and newsletter editor get frustrated and burned out. As you already do - delegate.


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RE: Newspaper Articles

I find all this very interesting. It makes our weekly MG contribution process to the local paper sound very simple. The local paper has a Tuesday "Farm and Garden" section and our MG organization is invited to submit an article and/or an "Ask a Master Gardener" segment. Our MG Media liason simply solicits written material and it is always published in the paper in a well-written form. So far, none of the above-mentioned layers of red tape have appeared. Our willing participants are mostly retired professionals/educators who seem to have the ability to write acceptable articles. No one has complained that editing was a problem. I guess something can be "committeed" to death but I realize that every situation is unique.


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RE: Newspaper Articles

When we started in Napa we did a column of questions and answers based on the help desk about every two weeks. We referred to the log from the prior year about a month before the articles were due. At that time we had about 60 people in our group. We have evolved to about 110 which is plenty large. since the subjects are set up several months in advance and the first one of each month deals with what to do this month, it has become manageable. One of the purpose of the editor besides checking spelling is to make sure the information given is not folk lore but university based information. Also even tho we are scheduled there are times of the year when we get bumped.

Penny


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RE: Newspaper Articles

Hi everyone. I would like to add my two cents worth. My opinion is that writing for someone else's publication is kind of like any other job. The "boss" (in this case the editor) can make all the difference as to how well you like the job.
Most editors are well-educated and their job is to make sure that what gets in their paper reflects well on their publication. No matter who writes what, a lot of editors are going to re-write some of it. That's their job.
If your goal is to convey information to the public, then you should probably welcome the assistance of the editor who is making your information more "conveyable". If, in fact, the editor is changing what you say by editting out key points, then you need to talk to the editor. Most of the time, in an information column such as a Master Gardener column, the "writer" will be considered as little more than a source of information and the editor will feel it is their job to make the information readable.
In other words, if you want to reach people and pass along good gardening advice, be thankful that you have a source that will publish that information.
If you want to be a "writer", then get used to suffering from the slashes of the editors cuts. All writers learn early on that you have to develop a thick skin if you want to be published. I've been freelance writing for over ten years and I have all the ego scars to prove it.
Scarred Writer


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RE: Newspaper Articles

Great forum here, and great thread. I think a lot depends on the size and sophistication of the newspaper for which you are writing. The bigger and better the paper, the more likely you'll be edited in a heavy-handed fashion. If the paper is a weekly or the like, you can probably count on a verbatim hitting the streets. A polished daily might rearrange your article to the point of you wondering just why it is they even bothered giving you a by-line.

No one likes to be edited, because it can feel more like censoring than editing, which I completely understand. But there is an old saying that, "Great books aren't written, great books are edited." And, I suppose, you can apply it in this situation.

Now, from another perspective, this is all volunteer work with us MGs, so if we bristle at being edited, we can just stop writing the columns. I've personally seen that myself in several instances. It was pretty much a, "If you don't like my effort, then I'm not making the effort." Volunteerism, including what we do as MGs, requires special handling. A few charities with which I have been personally involved actually develop training courses to instruct paid employees how to treat volunteers. Typically, most charities treat volunteers like gold, because volunteers make these organizations work as well as they do.

One final personal observation/gripe; I've seen more than my share of publications, big and small, whose staff writers positively stink. So, when one of these periodicals edits you drastically, it can really be annoying.


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RE: Newspaper Articles

  • Posted by Barb52 z4NorthernWY (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 3, 05 at 10:49

Hi,
The meeting with the publisher went great. We have a name for our column and instead of once a month we will have articles twice a month through the summer anyway. He did give me some guidelines as to length. He said 500 words is ideal, but from 350-600 is acceptable. He thinks people here are hungry for gardening information and I agree. We have long winters and people are anxious to get outside. Our past president will proof the articles for errors as well as make suggestions and send back the article to the writer to correct. Nancy is a retired English teacher and should be good at this. As president I will also get a copy and will forward on the final copy to the newspaper. I believe the newspaper's intention is to keep the articles pretty much intact, but I guess we will find out. I already have three Master Gardeners writing articles. We seem to have a wide range of interest amongst us so I think we should enjoy writing the column as well as the opportunity to contribute to the community. I am going back to lurking since I have a presentation on seed starting to work on, a full time job, husband and new puppy.
Barb


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RE: Newspaper Articles

Our Kinston North Carolina MG group is 20 strong and we have written a weekly article for our newspaper for many years called "The Potting Shed". I am presently the primary writer for these articles but do get submissions from other members once in awhile. Someone has to take responsibility for editing and for timeliness which is my job as well. We have few problems and I feel that the articles both help the local chapter plus answer the needs of agric. extension and our readers. We take this responsibility seriously and try to do a good job with it. The issue of editing could be a very sticky one and I feel for those chapters who have found this problematic. I can not remember having been edited but I am very careful with my submissions and this may be why. I have edited, with their permission, articles submitted by other MG's with no bad repercussions. bob


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