November 6, 2013

Details are important when submitting news items

By SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — I’ve been around the Press-Republican for quite a long time — 1977, to be exact — and I am grateful to the many editors who have taught me a variety of newspaper tasks.

While my favorite pastime is writing this column, I also love sharing the stories of people in the North Country.

I also have the opportunity to help out with weekly news chores, including the Community Calendar.

Just one look at the calendar, which runs on Fridays, tells you the newspaper receives many submissions, some just in the nick of time, others four months ahead of time. They can add up to hundreds a week. Having the complete information for each listing is vitally important.

Please allow me to make some suggestions, in a helpful manner, not a critical one:

Every submission should answer the the five W’s of basic journalism: who, what, when, where and why, plus how.

Who is sponsoring the event? What is the event? When will it begin and end and on what day? Where is it being held, including street number, name, town, special room, if applicable? What is the purpose of the event? Then, how will all of these details be brought to fruition. 

To break it down further, let’s say a spaghetti supper is planned at the American Legion in Lyon Mountain. If you are new to the area, you might not know specifically where the American Legion is.

In addition, summertime in the North Country is a big draw for tourists. A lot of people carry a GPS in their car and would have to punch in the exact address, 3958 Route 374, in order to find the American Legion in Lyon Mountain.

Details on what is going to happen at the event are important. Families with small children probably wouldn’t want to attend a turkey shoot or a nighttime tour through the catacombs of Fort Ticonderoga.

While some people send pages of history on the event or the speakers, it takes time to read through. Even worse is when the five W’s are scattered throughout the paragraphs.

Pop all the pertinent information right at the top of the sheet of paper, email or fax, then go on to elaborate on the event in the following paragraphs. The basics are up front, and then we can glean the rest of the submission for information we may be able to add.

Sometimes there are so many events going on that we can run only one week ahead in all six categories: Events, Meals, Meetings, Talks, Public Television and Registrations.

With 100 or more events every week, we print each one out in case there are questions later. After the Community Calendar is in the computer, it is proofed befor publication. If there is a mistake or something left out and I’m not there to check it out, an editor has to find the paper copy in the “Done” calendar folder.

Another “problem” we sometimes have is that more than one person will submit the same event and the details don’t match. Select one person to be the publicity person. A publicity committee can make a list of media outlets to submit to — daily or weekly newspapers, radio, television, Facebook or Twitter — and list all the phone numbers, email addresses and contact people. That way the publicity person won’t be overwhelmed. And always include a contact name and phone number, in case we have a question.

Lastly, if there is a charge for the event, make sure to list how much, or state if it is free. It can be disheartening when a family plans to attend an activity only to find out there is an admission fee.

That first day I worked with the Community Calendar, Editor Lois Clermont said to me, “Put in all the information that is relevant; just think of it as if it were an event that you were sponsoring.” I take that seriously and try to include all the highlights.

We don’t mind if you check to see that we received your submissions.

So use these suggestions to help me out, folks, and good luck with your events.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at