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Freelance Writing > Newspaper Writing Tips > How to Think Like an Editor and Get Happily Published

How to Think Like an Editor and Get Happily Published

An editorial mindset improves your writing and helps you get published. Thinking like an editor sets you apart from other writers – in a good way!

If you’re tired of pitching ideas and getting rejected, take heart. Articles aren’t easy to sell to newspapers, but pitching ideas to editors has never been easier! That’s the good news. More good news is that you know what readers want to read in their newspapers, you know what editors want from writers. Even better, you’ll get your article published and maybe even land on the front page of the paper.

Freelance writing isn’t easy, but those three specific factors (developing an editor’s mindset, finding good article ideas, and knowing what readers want) will help you get published. That’s all part of learning an editorial mindset, which you’ll find below.

A reader’s comment on my post about freelance writing pay rates for newspapers and magazines inspired me to share these ideas. I realized that aspiring writers aren’t natural publishers or editors, which is why it’s crucial to develop an editing mindset. The tips below will help, and so will these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Why is it important to think like an editor?

Developing an editorial mindset is crucial because it helps writers align their content with the newspaper’s needs, which increase the chances of an article getting published. It’s about understanding what editors look for and crafting pitches that stand out in a competitive market.

This can be difficult for writers who have their own agendas. For instance, a writer who wants to promote literary in schools may want to write about reading, writing and books for different grade levels. A newspaper editor, however, may want to publish more controversial articles. If writers focus on their own interests to the exclusion of the newspaper’s agenda, they won’t get published.

How do I get an editorial mindset if I haven’t met an editor? 

You don’t necessarily have to know the editor herself to sell an article to a newspaper. You do, however, have to know the newspaper’s readers. Reading the comments, questions and complaints that local readers have is as a valuable source of inspiration. Thinking like an editor means crafting articles that address readers’ concerns or questions not only makes your content relevant, but also enhances the likelihood of engagement and acceptance by editors.

Should I interview editors to understand their thought processes?

Yes, reaching out to the newspaper before pitching an article can help you develop an editor’s mindset. You might ask about their criteria for selecting articles, understanding their readership, and identifying the types of stories they are currently looking to feature. This firsthand knowledge help will help you tailor your pitch more effectively.

What mistakes do writers make when pitching to newspaper publications?

One common pitfall is overlooking the newspaper publication’s specific needs and preferences. Writers should avoid generic pitches and strive to understand the elements that make a newspaper unique.

Exploring case studies or success stories of newspaper writers who have applied the following tips successfully in the newspaper industry can provide real-world examples and inspiration. Look for instances where understanding the editor’s mindset played a crucial role in getting a newspaper article  published.

7 Ways to Think Like an Editor

Are you tired of pitching ideas and getting rejected? These tips for developing the mindset of an editor will help you get published in a newspaper.

Does an editorial mindset guarantee you’ll get published in a newspaper? Probably not. Will it increase your chances of finding interesting article ideas, crafting professional pitches, and impressing newspaper editors? Definitely!

1. Study past issues of the newspaper

Before pitching your article to a newspaper, immerse yourself in their recent editions. Understand the types of topics the editors like to cover, the tone, and the writing styles they prefer. If they’ve recently featured a piece on local community events, for example, consider how your idea can provide a fresh take without duplicating content.

If you’re determined to write about literacy at school for your newspaper, for instance, find ways to connect popular past newspaper reports to your topic. Perhaps a student struggled to read the directions on a recipe and ended up starting a fire in the kitchen. That’s a newsworthy article idea that can be directly connected to both past issues and current events in the newspaper.

Studying past issues provides insights into the publication’s style, preferences, and the type of content the editors favor. Further, if you refer to past issues or specific articles when talking to editors, you reveal your understanding of the style, voice and tone of the newspaper.

Bonus tip: knowing the newspaper’s most popular types of articles will help you target your writing to the editor’s needs.

2. Be aware that editors have to work within newspaper budgets

This is a huge consideration for writers developing an editorial mindset. Most editors want to publish interesting articles related to the local community and events, but are bound by money. When you pitch your article idea, find ways to explain how the newspaper’s financial bottom line will actually be strengthened. Your news report will sell more papers, right? 

Newspapers operate on tight budgets, and column space is at a premium. When proposing an idea, consider its relevance to the local audience and the potential impact. Avoid generic topics that might have been covered extensively. Your pitch should showcase a unique angle or a local perspective that adds value without straining the newspaper’s resources. 

Get Your Article Published by Developing an Editor’s Mindset
Writer Learning How to Think Like an Editor

Editors operate within specific budgets, and writers need to be mindful of this. Proposing ideas that align with the publication’s financial constraints demonstrates an understanding of the business side, making articles more appealing and likely to be published.

3. Develop an online mindset (because editors need web-friendly content)

Even traditional newspapers have an online presence, and web-friendly content is key. Pitch ideas that not only cater to print readers but also have the potential for online engagement. Specific, tightly focused topics that resonate with the local community will likely garner more attention, both in the physical paper and on the digital platform.

When you’re pitching to a newspaper consider the possibility of online engagement. Ensure that your article format is suitable for both print and online platforms. Clever newspaper writers will mention how the article they’re pitching will look on the newspaper’s website. Craft a short snappy eye-catching title, and you’re thinking like a editor.

4. Write familiar yet intriguing articles

Newspapers thrive on providing news that is the same, yet different. If you notice a recurring theme in recent editions of your newspaper, you’re starting to develop an editor’s mindset. Find a way to offer a fresh perspective. For instance, if there have been articles on local businesses, your pitch could focus on an innovative approach or a unique success story, adding a distinct flavor to a familiar topic.

Striking the “same yet different” balance involves finding a fresh perspective on familiar topics. For newspapers, it could mean exploring local angles, unique stories, or innovative approaches to well-known themes, ensuring the content is both recognizable and captivating.

If you’re passionate about writing about school literacy rates, find ways to connect the newspaper’s recurring themes to elementary reading and writing. The editor will see your intelligence and ambition. Even if you don’t sell the article idea you’re currently pitching, you increase the chances of selling a future newspaper pitch.

5. Pitch specific, local, specialized newspaper articles

Avoid broad strokes when pitching to a newspaper. If your initial idea is “How to Support Local Businesses,” zoom in on a specific neighborhood or industry. For example, pitch “A Deep Dive into the Resurgence of Writing Services Businesses in [City]” to provide a specific and tightly focused angle that aligns with the newspaper’s local coverage.

If you’re reporting on school literacy rates in your community, mention specific schools. Never make up information; instead, find data or statistics that supports your claims. 

To get even more specific, you might zoom in on particular aspects of childhood reading and writing. For instance, focusing on a specific neighborhood, family or local event at a library can provide a tightly focused angle that newspapers find appealing. An editorial mindset is local, relevant, and people-focused.

6. Answer the newspaper readers’ questions and comments

Newspapers often receive letters to the editor or inquiries from readers. Pay attention to these queries, as they can serve as a springboard for your ideas. If readers have expressed interest or concern about a particular local issue, writing an article that addresses and explores these concerns can resonate well with both the publication and its audience.

Developing the mindset of an editor requires thinking like a reader, a writer, and a publisher. Successful freelance writers understand that newspapers are a business, reporters are doing a job, and editors have to put the interests of the publication above their own preferences.

7. Interview the newspaper’s editors, publisher and freelance writers

Build relationships with newspaper editors by engaging in conversations about their editorial choices. Ask about their preferences, the kind of stories that resonate with their readership, and any specific topics they are currently looking to explore. This insight can guide your pitches, making them more aligned with the newspaper’s editorial vision.

The key is to tailor your approach to the specific needs and nuances of newspaper publications, ensuring that your ideas not only capture the essence of the publication but also contribute something unique to your community. 

Get Your Article Published by Developing an Editor’s Mindset
Think Like a Newspaper Editor to Get Published

It takes a lot of work to develop an editorial mindset, but it’ll pay off. Not only does it increase the chances you’ll get published in a newspaper, it may even lead to new career opportunities. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next editor-in-chief of your city’s newspaper. 

Is an editing job in your future? Here’s a List of Different Types of Writing and Editing Jobs.

Fellow scribes, what say you about these tips for developing the mindset of an editor? Comments and questions welcome below.


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2 thoughts on “How to Think Like an Editor and Get Happily Published”

  1. I am new freelance writer and trying to start in my local community newspaper. I feel demotivated because the editors never publish my articles even when I offer to write for free. I will try tips for developing an editorial mindset but I don’t believe it will help. I think I’m somehow not on the right track. What am I doing wrong?

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you’re facing challenges in getting your articles published. Rejection can be tough, but it’s essential to assess and adjust your approach. I encourage you to research the tips for thinking like an editor above.

      Also, here are some potential reasons why your articles might not be getting published and suggestions for improvement:

      Make sure you understand the style, tone, and content preferences of the local community newspaper. Carefully read several recent issues to get a feel for the type of articles they publish. This will help you align your content more closely with their editorial preferences.

      Your articles may not be addressing topics that resonate with the local community newspaper. Focus on local interests, events, or issues that directly impact your community. Tailor your pitches to align with the newspaper’s commitment to serving its readership.

      Your pitch may not be compelling or tailored to the newspaper’s needs. Craft concise and engaging pitches that clearly convey the value of your article to the readership. Highlight why your piece is relevant, timely, and unique to the local context.

      Even if you’re offering to write for free, professionalism is key. Newspaper editors may be hesitant if your communication lacks polish or if your articles require extensive editing.

      Double-check your emails for clarity, grammar, and professionalism. Submit well-edited articles that require minimal adjustments, showcasing your writing skills effectively.

      Editors might be more inclined to publish articles from writers with whom they have a relationship. Attend local events, introduce yourself to the editorial team, and express your genuine interest in contributing. Building personal connections can make newspapers editors more receptive to your pitches.

      Your pitches may be too narrowly focused or repetitive. Diversify your topics to showcase your versatility as a writer. Cover a range of subjects that appeal to different readers within the community.

      The editorial process may take time, and persistence is key. Be patient and continue submitting well-crafted pitches. Consider following up politely after some time to inquire about the status of your submissions.

      Remember, Kal, building a relationship with the local newspaper takes time. Use each rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve. Don’t be discouraged – keep refining your approach, and your dedication will likely pay off in the long run.

      Happy writing!