How to make news
Every month, you open your copy of The Rotarian and read about people just like you who are working on great service projects just like yours. Occasionally, you say to yourself, Hey, why don’t I ever see my club in here?
In any given month, a sizable number of the 1.2 million Rotarians in the more than 32,000 clubs around the world ask the same question. Many of them do something about it. Letters, e-mails, faxes, and packages addressed to The Rotarian’s editors arrive at RI World Headquarters daily, each delivering news of some admirable Rotary club or district effort.
Despite the good intentions and hard labor that go into each project, only a small percentage of Rotarians’ work ever gets highlighted in the magazine; there simply isn’t enough space to cover everything.
So what tips the scales in favor of the submissions that end up as magazine articles? Most submissions consist of two elements: a description and photographs. Your description and the photos you send can have a significant impact on whether your story is considered for publication.
Rotarians who submit news to the editors often wonder whether they need to write an article that’s ready for publication. This isn’t necessary. (If you’re considering this route, contact the editors before you get started.) Instead, the editors prefer a brief summary of the basic information — the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the project. The summary should be no longer than 250 words and should include the names and contact information of people who can discuss the project further.
Other helpful items to send along with your description are relevant news releases or promotional materials that your club has issued and copies of any coverage of the project in print or broadcast media. (For tips on how best to present your project description, see Is Your Story Newsworthy? below)
Most articles published in The Rotarian include at least one relevant photograph. A strong picture can greatly increase the chances of your submission receiving coverage. The best photos show Rotarians, or the beneficiaries of Rotary club and district projects, in action — a doctor performing an examination, a child participating in a classroom, a group of people building a house.
You can send original prints or slides through the mail, or you can submit digital photos via e-mail or CD. Digital images are often the easier choice, but remember to follow these important guidelines:
- Images must be at least 300 dots per inch and at least 5 x 7 inches. (This will create an image file of roughly 10 MB.)
- The file format must be either TIFF or JPG. (Photos embedded in Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, or e-mails are not acceptable.)
Contact the editors at
The Rotarian [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
One Rotary Center
1560 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201-3698 USA
The fatal five
To increase the chances of your club’s work being featured in a future issue of The Rotarian, avoid including any of these in your submission:
1. Orchestrated group shots or photographs of people posed and smiling for the camera
2. News of fundraising dinners, check presentations, and dedication ceremonies that didn’t involve much action
3. Stories that reveal a strong political bias
4. Detailed accounts of district conferences or other meetings
5. Requests for publicity to help get a project off the ground
Is your story newsworthy?
One way to get the editors’ attention is to do some of their work for them. When you submit a story idea to The Rotarian, highlight what makes your project newsworthy. Ask yourself the following questions before writing your summary. Your submission doesn’t need to answer all these questions, but it should answer at least one of them.
Is it timely?
Show how the project can be linked to current events or an appropriate observance, such as a special month on the Rotary calendar. Keep in mind that we work at least three months ahead, so news received on 1 July would appear in the October issue at the earliest.
Is it unusual?
Point out what makes the project unique or innovative. For example, everyone holds fundraisers, but the vast majority aren’t covered in the magazine. What makes your fundraiser interesting enough to be included in The Rotarian?
Can other clubs adopt it?
Let us know if the project has been (or could be) easily replicated by other clubs or districts.
Describe the measurable or tangible results of the project.
Who was helped?
Tell us about the people who benefited from the project.
Who made it happen?
Give us the names and phone numbers of the Rotarians whose exceptional dedication or vision made the project possible.
Why was it necessary?
Detail the challenges or issues that led to the project’s development. Did it cross borders or break barriers? Highlight the internationality of the project, or show how it brought communities together.
Were other organizations involved?
Note whether other groups, such as service clubs, charitable organizations, government agencies, or nongovernmental organizations, participated.