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Writing Newspaper Columns

Who knew I’d also get questions on my YouTube channel!

Hi Anne,

Reading for Freelance WritersI was just viewing your videos. I am planning on taking your advice about approaching local papers.

I wanted to ask you your opinion on writing a column for a local paper. I wondered if it would be too presumptuous to even request that possibility at this point (being an unpublished writer looking for bylines) or if I had some ideas if this might be a good idea to suggest (or if I should first start with articles).

If you have any thoughts on this would you please be willing to share your advice? I was thinking something along the lines of interviewing people in the community (sort of a meet your neighbors type theme) or some other sort of weekly concept (movies, books, dating, etc). Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.



Hi JB,

First, let me apologize for not finding your question sooner.

As you know, I’m a big believer in writing for weekly newspapers as a way to get started.

As far as your idea for a column, my philosophy is more or less “it never hurts to ask.”

Years ago I created my own mini-syndicate of three papers. It didn’t earn much, but did lead to other things.

If you’re unpublished, the editor is going to wonder if you can sustain a column. The best way to demonstrate you can is to write half a dozen or a dozen column samples and provide titles or topics for a whole year – 52 if it’s a weekly paper.

Take it to the editor and see what she has to say.

Good luck, and let us know what happens.



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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Hi Anne,
    I had an almost similar problem to that of a previous Kenyan contributor. I am a published novelist and a research writer currently facing a dearth of online writing assignments. I previously contributed for a site called “Minnesota-attractions’ but that lasted about a month.Where can i find online writing gigs that I can submit samples of my writing to. Incidentally, Kenyans speak flawless English, thanks to a British colonial legacy. Swahili is still the national language, but i am sure even in the U.S.a, you can find fourth generation immigrants who speak English and German or English and Spanish.

  • Interesting post, Anne. I self-syndicated a humor column in the mid-90s and sold to two (!) newspapers. I kept it up for two years but the weekly deadline was too much considering it wasn’t growing in papers. I also posted online after publication, though, at a time when there wasn’t much to read online, and had a huge (unpaid) following there. One woman emailed me that she loved my column so much she wanted to marry me! (I was already married.)

    I’ve been thinking about exploring this again and Carol makes a good point. It seems a lot of print products (papers and magazines) have expanded their footprint online, running works there they don’t have room for in print. Of course, there’s an expectation online that you don’t get paid for your words, but papers and magazines seem more likely to pay for an online column, just not nearly as much as the print. Am I right in that assessment?
    Patrick Ross recently posted..Never Give Up On Your DreamsMy Profile

    • Patrick, I dropped my column after about two years too… and I wouldn’t hesitate to pitch an online column for pay or for base pay and a percentage of the ads depending on the paper. Let us know if you do and how it works.

  • These days, I’d say write a blog and put up a half-dozen entries on a thematic topic, and send THAT to the editor! A lot of papers are running online columns too. With a blog you can show comments and how you’re engaging the audience, getting questions…and you can sell ads against and otherwise monetize that content, instead of it just being a bunch of spec samples.
    Carol Tice recently posted..4 Tech Tools For Higher Writing IncomeMy Profile

    • Anne

      Carol, you’re absolutely right although I’d make it clear I could deliver either electronically or via hard copy – or even both. Thanks.

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