>Look for the pattern

>Our local newspaper recently welcomed its third new editor and is on its third publisher since we moved to the Oregon Coast in 1996. You’d think the paper would show massive differences from one regime to the next. I worked there for a while, and I can testify that the people are very different, but the paper isn’t. If you looked through back issues from the ’90s, you would find the same sections organized the same way they are now, the layout pretty much the same, and the content frustratingly similar, with only the names changing. New features are rarely introduced.

Is our paper unique? Not at all. I bring this up because most newspapers use the same template for every issue. As readers, we like that. We like to know where to find the sports schedule, the cartoons, the book reviews or whatever we want to read. Sticking with the same pattern also makes it easier for the editors, graphic artists and advertising staff to put each issue together in the limited time they have.

As freelance writers, we need to offer ideas that fit into the newspaper’s framework. Otherwise they are not likely to be accepted. They might be good, but the editor won’t know where to put them. Perhaps after you have proven yourself with several articles, you might suggest something new, but don’t exchange to break the pattern overnight. Look for what the editor needs and provide it. That’s the path to breaking in.

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