Send us stories, not press releases
The Heights Observer, a citizen-based publication produced monthly by FutureHeights, welcomes all community news, announcements and information. The Observer was founded by FutureHeights six years ago, for the express purpose of publishing the hyperlocal Cleveland Heights and University Heights news that traditional media outlets tend to overlook.
With no full-time staff, the Observer invites and relies on community members—be they residents, or members or employees of Heights organizations or companies—to write and submit articles about the personalities, events and news that is happening in the Heights.
Many organizations are accustomed to sending press releases about newsworthy events or causes to media outlets, with the expectation that a reporter will then follow up, call the organization, attend the event, and take the next steps to turn the basic information into a news story.
The Observer, however, can’t follow up on press releases. We lack the staff to convert a release to a news story. All of our writers are volunteers, as are our editors. We have a part-time editor-in-chief, who coordinates all the articles we receive for both print and online publication, and a part-time publisher who oversees it all.
We need the information in a different format, one that is just as easy to create as a press release: we need news stories. You can create a news story from a press release by doing the following:
- Suggest a headline: A headline usually contains a verb, grabs a reader’s attention and briefly summarizes the content.
- Write an introduction: The first paragraph of the story should provide the basic facts about the news event. It should answer the questions who, what, when, where and why.
- Write the body: Provide relevant, Heights-specific details about the news event.
- Include a quote or two: The sentence, “This Heights event is the greatest ever!” is an opinion, not a fact. While it cannot be stated as unattributed opinion in an article, participants in a news story can express their viewpoints in the form of a quote. An organization’s director or company president can say, “It’s the greatest Heights event ever!” if that is what she believes. The author of the news story, however, should not quote himself, or otherwise refer to himself in the article. If you must quote yourself, work with a friend or colleague to submit the article.
- Include boilerplate information: Once you’ve stated the news, include some general background information about the organization, business or person you are writing about.
- Include contact information: Provide an opportunity for readers to learn more by including a website, phone number or other contact information.
- Include a biographical statement: Each story in the Heights Observer includes a brief (1–2 sentence) biographical statement at the end of the article. Make sure you disclose any connection the author has to the organization, individual or event he or she is writing about.
- Include a photograph: You can attach a photograph to your article when you submit it. While a photo is not required, it can help bring attention to your story.
- Keep it brief: A story that is direct and to-the-point is more likely to attract readers, and more likely to appear in a monthly print edition of the Observer, where space is limited. Try to keep your article at less than 500 words (and shorter is often better).
To submit a story, go to www.heightsobserver.org and click on Member Center at the left. If you haven't submitted previously, click on Become an Observer, also part of the left-side menu, and read the information there, including the Style Guide, where you will find guidelines regarding article length and options for type of article (news, opinion or letter to the editor). If you have questions, call the FutureHeights office at 216-320-1423 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.