News reporting may not be a job many freelance writers even consider when they are living in a country a long way from home, or one with few news outlets in their native language. But freelance news reporting in such situations can be a good source of income for that very reason.
The large national and international news organizations have correspondents around the world. Even if they do not have a full- time journalist on location, these organizations will probably have a local stringer whom they can call for major stories.
However, smaller regional and metropolitan news outlets, and national news organizations of smaller countries, are unlikely to have such arrangements in place. Though these smaller organizations will take major news stories from the wire services and WTN or CNN, they love almost any story with a "local" interest that the big organizations are unlikely to pick up.
Local and regional news media generally run local and regional news items. If a major event, such as an earthquake, occurs somewhere in the world, they may mention it, but they will soon revert to local news unless their core audience is directly affected by the story.
Within any major news event, however, you will find people who don't warrant the international spotlight because they are not senior enough, or not famous enough, to gain international notice. But town, county, or state news organizations would love to run a story on how someone from their area is involved in an international event. Take the recent Turkish earthquake, for example. Journalists from many organizations flew to the region en masse, but I sold a story about one particular Dog Rescue team to a regional UK newspaper because the team came from the newspaper's circulation area.
Major news events do not have to be disasters. Trade delegations, government delegations, cultural exchanges and sports events can make the national news headlines, but individual members of those groups come from small towns in their home countries, where you can generate local news stories.
Not all news items make the national news, which is the primary reason local and regional news outlets still exist.
The audiences of these outlets want to hear stories that directly affect them, or people like them, and stories about people they can relate to. As an international writer pitching to this market, you need to find stories about someone your audience members went to school with, who attended the local university, or who was born or lived in the area.
The expatriate community is your news source: businessmen, charity workers, teachers, your spouse, your children. If you can find a story and a hook, you can sell an article. One news editor of a regional daily newspaper recently told me she would "Take anything you can send with a local interest." For example:
Your subject should be willing to help you contact their local news outlet. S/he should at least be able to tell you the name of the news organization, and hopefully give you a telephone number as well. Otherwise, you will have to search through the print and online news outlet directories (see below).
A direct approach by telephone works best with news outlets; news editors are accustomed to working quickly and making decisions on phoned-in sources, since news by its nature is time-limited. Call the switchboard and ask for the News Editor, unless your source has provided you with a specific editorial contact.
Have your speech planned before you reach the news editor. I find the following approach helpful:
Getting the story to the client quickly is the next important step; news stories can be past their sell-by date within twenty-four hours. Ask for the editor's e-mail address and the newsroom fax number. Then send your story by both methods: ISPs and computers crash, and you can type an e-mail address incorrectly or misdial a telephone number. Remember to always send the text of your story in the body of the e-mail message, never as an attachment.
Payment is closely linked to circulation and the importance of the story, though some organizations have a set fee for all freelance contributions. If the editor agrees to take your story, remember to ask about payment rates, and whether you need to send an invoice.
Learn to watch for news items wherever you live -- and the results could be good news for your career!
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