|As usual, profiles are|
often a good place to start.
There are thousands of publications out there looking for writers. Some of the best ones cover local issues and expect their writers to be familiar with the local scene. So, can a writer living in, say, California, successfully write for publications in Kansas, New York, or Tennessee?
The answer will depend on the specific type of publication you are writing for.
Some magazines want their writers to conduct interviews in person. They may also need them to personally visit factories, farms, shops, restaurants, and other sites to take pictures or observe the activities taking place there. They may want them to use very descriptive writing that can only be done by someone who has actually immersed him or herself in a particular environment in order to soak in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and other sensations present there.
A writer’s understanding of a region’s history and culture, along with knowledge of local politics, sensitivities, and jargon, may all be important as well, and it is thus easy to understand why an outsider might not be able to do a good job with this. Some guidelines specifically ask writers not to submit articles or queries unless they live nearby.
Don’t let this discourage you, though.
Although you must respect a publication’s wishes and guidelines, there are numerous ways to write local when you live far away. In addition, it is helpful to realize that many publications are short on writers and will accept material from non-local writers when needed.
Phone and E-mail
The most obvious way to write local is to conduct your interviews on the phone whenever possible. Many publications allow this, and many people actually prefer being interviewed on the phone as it is much more convenient than taking time out of a busy schedule to meet someone in person. Depending on the article you are writing, you may need just a couple of quick quotes. A profile, however, may require a longer conversation. Plan accordingly, making sure not to keep your subject on the phone any longer than absolutely necessary. E-mail interviews may also suffice in certain circumstances.
Internet Discussion Forums
If you need to interview everyday people from a particular city or town, Internet discussion forums can be a good place to find them. Look for a local discussion forum or a more general one related to the topic you are writing about. If, for example, you are looking for parents of children with ADHD in Cincinnati, you could visit a local forum for residents of Cincinnati as well as national parenting forums and forums dedicated specifically to ADHD. Once there, you would look for members who fit the profile you need. Also make use of the groups you already belong to. You might find that a writing colleague in a writing group you belong to fits the profile or knows someone else who does. You might also have success finding people to interview via searches on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media venues.
If you can’t find someone on the Internet to interview, you may need to pick up the phone and do a bit more detective-work. You could, for example, call a business, association, club, organization, hospital, school, or foundation and ask if they can help guide you to people who may be interested in having their story told.
Immerse Yourself in Local Culture
Spend time reading magazines and newspapers in your target region in order to understand the issues of importance to the people living there. You may also want to join a few e-groups for local residents where you can interact with members and ask questions that are relevant to your research. When writing an article about a tsunami that struck Oman a few years ago, I joined an e-group comprised of American and British ex-pats living in Oman. The people in this group provided me with numerous insights into how residents were dealing with the tsunami. Although I was unable to physically visit Oman, I came away with powerful anecdotes that enriched my understanding of the crisis. Lurking in the group also allowed me a glimpse into ex-pat life in Oman and gave me many ideas for other articles.
Have you ever written for a local publication outside your region?
Share your experiences by leaving a comment.
Next time, I will further illustrate how writing local has the potential to increase your earnings.