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PLANNING AHEAD: Newspaper Columns

MGEVs can make great contributions to an agent’s media plan within a county. Traditionally, this has been through a regular newspaper column. Even though printed newspaper circulation has been in decline for several years, it is still estimated to reach 28 million people on a weekday basis and 30 million on a Sunday. Digital newspaper circulation was estimated at 11 million in 2018 (Pew Research Center). This is a tremendous audience seeking news and information that they can use. They are part of the more than 45 million people Extension Master Gardeners reached via media in 2018.

MGEVs can write articles to be included in the local newspaper, whether in print or digital format. It’s helpful to have some basic information before you begin writing.

  • Consider the publication to which you will submit your article. What are the demographics of its readership? Think about gardening topics that would be appealing to this audience. For example, if your lead age bracket is 35-45 years, consider home garden maintenance or plant selection with a purpose. If your lead age bracket is 75-85, consider accessible or adaptive gardening techniques or ways to simplify garden care.
  • Consider the frequency of publication. Does the paper publish daily? Weekly? Monthly? This may affect the frequency of your articles as well as the length. For example, if the paper publishes weekly, you may consider several short articles. If the paper publishes monthly, however, you may choose to prepare a single, longer article on your topic.
  • Make a plan. While you may contribute an article on the occasion that the newspaper contacts Extension, you can have more impact on your audience with a regular column. This is a great way to establish a reputation for Extension and MGEVs as sources of credible information and also become recognized as valuable resources to the community. Consider a series of articles to be run over the course of the year. Ideas for inspiration include: 
    • Pollinator-friendly plants — feature one or a few each month. Direct readers to your demonstration garden or a workshop that local MGEVs are hosting.
    • Timely tips — feature timely care or a to-do list in the garden for the respective week or month. Extension publications can be a great help for this.
    • Project Highlights — use each column to describe MGEV projects and the accomplishments of each. Remember that this is going to impact your recruitment possibilities for future volunteers, so be sure to describe the educational aspects of the projects well!
  • Create a team. You don’t have to write the whole series yourself! Perhaps there are MGEVs in your county with specific expertise, such as vegetable gardening, rose care, pruning, native plants, or perennials. Ask them to contribute an article about their topic. Give them plenty of notice to prepare the article so that it is not a source of stress to meet the publication deadline!
  • Share your articles and materials with your agent before you publish. This helps ensure that Extension is represented through proper use of logos and your MGEV byline. It is also so helpful to have a second set of eyes on content to verify details.  Your agent may even be able to add photos or suggest additional helpful content.

Lastly, be sure to keep track of your articles and publication information. Your agent wants to know when and how many articles were published and the estimated readership of each. These are important details for describing the valuable support that MGEVs provide to Extension for meeting its educational mission. Thank you!

Happy writing!



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sdorn

About sdorn

Sheri is the State Coordinator for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program and Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. When she is not traveling about the state of Georgia admiring the work of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, she spends time in her own (real and virtual) gardens.