One of the best ways to make your mark as a freelance journalist, apart from knowing how to write, is to provide a newspaper or similar news organizations with timely articles.
Timely means following up on news issues that are already being covered by the news outlet, whether it's a newspaper, magazine or website. To do this, it is important that you abide by these three rules: identify the issue, take the story further and write it in proper journalism style.
Editors are unlikely to accept anyone who is not staff coming off the street and submitting what they want, let alone paying for such articles.
However, if you follow the three steps mentioned above, you can greatly improve your chances of getting your article published and opening the door for more work.
Identify the issue – by simply reading your targeted news outlet for a few days, you can get an idea of what stories and issues they care about. You can also read rival publications to see how they treat the same stories. Look at all sections: general news, business, sports and so on to decide which topics you are most comfortable with. Zero in on any particular news issue and make yourself an expert on it. Get to know whom the main players and what their views or grievances are.
Take the story further – for each day that passes, an issue needs to be freshened up to make it newsworthy. If an athlete is injured one day, the next day people would want to know how long he or she will be out for. If a tragedy strikes, the follow up would be casualty count and reaction. But remember that the news outlet would either have their own staff or a syndicated wire service providing articles for them. This means you have to think of an angle that is completely different. If you can think of one that is newsworthy and not covered by anyone else, you would have won the trust of the editor involved. Check out relevant blogs to see what the man on the street is saying. Some of them may have inside information that no one else has.
Write in journalistic style – the article you are reading now is not written in journalistic style. This is more of a "how to" article. Journalism news writing means employing the who, what, why, where, when and how system that gets the news out as fast as possible. You also need to know what kind of story you are going to write. Is it a hard-hitting news article, a poignant quote story or an investigative feature?
With all three elements fulfilled, you are ready to call up the editor and sell your article. If you have a good story that is relevant to the issue, provides fresh perspective and is different from what the news outlet or any of their rivals are likely to have, then you have an excellent chance of seeing your byline the next day.