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Common sense for the silly season thumb

Common sense for the silly season

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
There are just two weeks to go before the summer parliamentary recess begins on 18 July and MPs head back to their constituencies – or take off for the sun-drenched coastlines of mainland Europe, the Americas and the Far East.  What possible relevance can the routines of the political classes have for OCA students dedicating their time to painting, drawing, writing, composing and sculpting?
It’s really quite simple. The fallow news period that leaves journalists struggling for stories until the GCSE and A level results are published in the second half of August makes it easier to get local papers interested in stories that they probably wouldn’t have room to cover at other times – and that includes the arts.

Piled high: the summer is a good time to offer your story to the local press
Piled high: the summer is a good time to offer your story to the local press

If you have created new work, especially if it has a local link – paintings or textiles depicting your neighbourhood or regional landmarks, a short story that features your town, for example – summer is one of the best times to approach a reporter on your local paper about it.
Here are three examples of local and regional press coverage about OCA students:
Kay Hobson, who lives in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire and is studying textiles;
Jeremy Pelzer, a photography student who works in film production;
Patricia Farrar, a painter who lives in Surrey and who was the winner of OCA’s Richard Robbins’ Award 2011.
You don’t need to be a seasoned media handler to get your story covered. Here are six simple steps to help you on your way to free editorial coverage in your local press.
Step 1 – know your local media: buy a copy of the paper and see what sort of stories it covers, then note the names of writers interested in education and the arts so you can target them directly.
Step 2 – find a hook for your story: what’s the one thing that makes it stand out? This could be a career change, achievement against the odds, or winning a competition. The stories about Kay Hobson, Jeremy Pelzer and Patricia Farrar will give you some ideas.
Step 3 – think about photographs or podcasts to go with your story and have them ready to send to the paper: the digital revolution and reductions in the number of people working on the editorial team mean that newspapers are increasingly reliant on images and films produced by readers.
Step 4 – contact the publication: an email to the newsdesk, a named journalist – or both – works best for the first approach. Be brief, summarising your story and stressing its local aspects. Write a heading for the subject field of the email that is attention-grabbing so that your pitch stands out from the hundreds that newspapers receive each day.
Step 5 – follow up after a couple of days if you don’t receive a reply: send another email (even briefer than the first) or leave a telephone message early in the morning, before the journalist arrives at work.
Step 6 – give journalists what they ask for: this may be a telephone interview, more information by email or, in some cases, a face-to-face meeting. Be ready to fit in with them – and remember to ask when your story is likely to appear in the paper.
And lastly, a few dos and don’t to up your chances of getting your story covered.

  • Ask yourself whether as a reader you would be interested in your story if you saw it in your local paper.
  • Be specific when writing or talking to journalists: they like facts – dates, numbers, places, names.
  • Remember to talk about how OCA has helped you develop creatively.


  • Ask to see or comment on the article before it’s published. The value of editorial coverage, unlike paid-for advertising, is that it has been written by some-one independent.
  • Worry if there are minor inaccuracies in your story once it’s published. What matters is the overall impact.
  • Assume that your story will go online if it’s covered in the paper.  Some local papers don’t have the staff to put everything on their website.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/valeriebb/1681924558/”>Valerie Everett</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>have the staff to put everything on their website.

Posted by author: Elizabeth Underwood
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