Writing for Your Life
| News Releases |

Write of Way

Rogers - Write of Way


Section 1 - Taking Care of Business

Section 2 - Acing Schoolwork

Section 3 - Writing for Your Life

Agendas and Minutes | Letters to the Editor | Newsletter Articles | Notices and Posters | News Releases | Petitions |
Proposals and Funding Applications | Social Communication |

When the supporters of a local women's shelter go to all the work of running a book sale, they want as many customers as they can draw. They'll post notices on bulletin boards; they’ll list the World Wide Web address of their home page. They may advertise in the local media. And, they will probably distribute a news release.

A news release, also known as a media advisory or a press release, is very similar to a news article. It is a brief document that tells the most important information about a current event, such as a public lecture at a community college, an annual general meeting of a local political association, or a fundraising barbecue by the Girl Guides. You send the news release—often directly from your word processor through your computer as a fax or e-mail—to local newspapers, radio and television stations. If news of your event appears in the local media, you'll see more customers at that book sale to raise funds for battered women and children.

The media assignment editors read news releases to decide whether to send a reporter to an event or to present a story before the event. Sometimes your news release may simply tell the media your organization is holding a press conference. Then, you would make your announcement at the place and time indicated.


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Creating the Content of an Effective News Release

Make it easy for your reader to give you the press or electronic media attention you want. Write your news release as you want it to appear in the newspaper or be broadcast on radio or television. Here are some tips for writing effective news releases. Begin by looking at figure 1, the sample news release, one actually sent to the media to try to encourage a local city government to oppose a workfare experiment.

Figure 1: Example of a News Release to a Municipal Government
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  • Tell the media who you are

In your news release, feature—prominently—the name of the organization calling the press conference or planning the event. If your group has a logo recognized in the community, include it in the release.

  • Tell when the news can be released

Most of the time, you will include a line that indicates the current date and says "For Immediate Release." If you have sensitive information—such as an announcement of a contest winner where the winner has to be notified first—you may write "For Release September 23."

  • Report the most important information

Just as for a news article, be sure you tell what the event is, who is involved, where it is, when, why you doing this, and how.

  • Keep it brief

Don't write more than about 250-500 words. When editors decide to report on your event, they can always phone for more information.

  • Provide your own headline

Summarize the most important part of your message in a single, pithy headline like those you read in news reports. There's no guarantee the media will use it, but it may catch their attention.

  • Provide quotable information

Be specific about the important details of your event. If you are drawing attention to the need for funds for the local humane society to neuter more animals, report a startling statistic such as the number of pets that were put down because no one would adopt.
Supply details such as the names and titles of the people who lead your organization. Because news articles are filled with quotations, your media release should directly quote your members or the clients you serve.

  • Be sure to indicate how your media contact can be reached

Clearly indicate the names of group members who can be phoned, faxed, or e-mailed for further information. Remember: You want the publicity; make it easy for the media reporters to help you out. Include a line that says "For More Information:" followed by the contact name and phone number.


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Organizing an Effective News Release

  • Begin with a brief summary of what you most want to tell the public

Tell the most important news first. Assignment editors are busy people. If you save the most important information for later, the editor may not read enough before deciding not to send a reporter. Sometimes you might announce the whole event in one sentence. (Subsequent sentences will supply the details.)


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Creating a News Release With Effective Appearance

An assignment editor will make a quick decision about whether to send a reporter to your event. Design your news release to create-immediately-a favourable impression.

  • Create a document that looks light and easy-to-read

Use 2.5 centimetre (one-inch) margins to create an uncluttered look. A print-dense document will make readers feel tired the moment they see it. Double-space all text, and use text enhancements such as boxes and lines to create an appearance that suggests it will be a pleasure to read this communication.

  • Vary your font sizes to reflect the importance of the information

The eye of the reader will tend to be drawn to the part of the document with the largest text. If you want the reader to know immediately that this is a news release, emphasize that, but the organization name—particularly if it is well-known—is also important and so is the suggested headline.

  • Prominently feature your organization's logo

Readers perceive pictures even faster than printed messages. If you include your organization's logo, the reader will see it immediately. It is a way to remind your reader—almost instantaneously—of everything already known about your group. If you've built a good reputation in your community, that will help you hold the editor's attention.


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Activity 1: Practicing Writing News Releases

Pretend you're a member of the Golden Horseshoe Social Action Committee. You read in the newspaper that interested parties are invited by the Ontario Legislative Assembly Administration of Justice Committee to present at public hearings their thoughts about legalizing VLT's at race tracks, taverns, and charity gambling venues. Write a news release to interest the media in your presentation opposing the introduction of video lottery terminals in your province. You've got the nod from the committee, as Linda Rogers did, to present a ten-minute position paper to the hearing.

Look over the notes Linda made as she researched VLT's, and write a one-page news release. Be sure to turn some of Linda's notes into quotations; imagine what she will say to the committee. Include some of the other quotes, but don't use MLA style to reference them: It is not usual in a news release, although it was done in the written paper that she prepared for the presentation, distributed to the committee members, made available to interested reporters at the hearing, and later saw in Hansard.

Don't mimic the appearance of the example; try to apply the general suggestions to create a release that has all the essentials, but looks a little different.

  • Before the election, the Premier, Mike Harris, had condemned gambling. Columnist Eric Dowd (A14) quoted the premier as saying, "We are not convinced that this is the kind of way that we want to raise money." So, people who voted for the government were not supporting more legalized gambling.
  • After introducing VLT's into bars and restaurants in Alberta, that province's Lottery Review Committee chair Judy Gordon said, "87% felt VLT's are too accessible . . . . they are better off in casinos." ("Out of the Bars" 6). It is dangerous to drink and gamble.
  • The Addiction Research Foundation (ARF) has found VLT's are particularly attractive to women and adolescents with no prior gambling knowledge (Ferris and Stirpe).
  • ARF also found VLT's attract depressed people. People already depressed by unemployment or poverty may make their problems worse by losing money at these slot machines.
  • Brandon University psychology professor Barbara Gfellner found that 9.3% of 507 VLT users she surveyed were classified as problem or potential problem gamblers ("Hooked on the Game" 32).
  • VLT's may hurt the restaurant business. Quebec City bar owner Benoit Mercure says customers spend money on the slots, not on food and beer ("Is Video Gambling" A10).) Ian Pickles, a Sylvan Lake, Alberta, bar owner who got rid of his VLT's said he "got to hate watching people throwing their money away" ("The VLT Backlash Begins" 42). And Ted Tsendkos promoted his bar this way: "Hooray! No VLT's Here."
  • "The more opportunities to gamble, the more people will develop a problem," according to the director of the St. Mary's Hospital Counselling Service in Kitchener, Darryl Upfold (Yelaja A1).
  • Let's behave like British Columbia where the government decided not to legalize VLT's because of the problems they cause ("Klein Downplays" 43).
  • "We ask the Ontario government not to legalize VLT's."


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Answer to Activity 1: Practicing Writing a News Release

Figure 2: News Release Opposing Legalization of VLT's
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Works Cited

Dowd, Eric. "Uneasy Gamblers." Ottawa Citizen. 9 May 1996: A14.


Ferris, Jackie, and Tania Stirpe. Gambling in Ontario: A Report From a
General Population Survey on Gambling-Related Problems and

Opinions. N.p.: Addiction Research Foundation, 1995.


"Hooked on the Game." Maclean's. 9 Jan. 1995: 32.

"Is Video Gambling a Winning Move?" Toronto Star. 10 Aug. 1996: A10.

"Klein Downplays B.C. VLT Decision." Alberta Report. 5 June 1995: 43.

"Out of the Bars and Back Into the Community." Alberta Report. 18 Sep. 1995: 6.

"VLT Backlash Begins." Alberta Report. 18 Dec. 1995: 42.

Yelaja, Priti. "No Safe Bet." Kitchener-Waterloo Record. 3 June 1996:

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