lending a hand | Newspaper

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Life and times of a newspaper volunteer

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Do you like being in on the latest? Do you like listening to stories and then sharing them with others? Do your friends and family call you a grammar freak, or think you have an eye for detail? If so, today’s volunteer opportunity could be a perfect fit for you.

Today marks the first anniversary of the Kingsbury Journal. The last editions of the De Smet News and Lake Preston Times went out April 1, 2020. The impact was felt by the two communities, and plans were made to continue the newspapers under a merged Kingsbury Journal. Volunteers soon turned plans into tasks, and within seven weeks of the old newspapers’ ceased publications at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first edition of the Kingsbury Journal hit the newsstands on May 20, 2020. It has been quite a year since.

The Kingsbury Journal now utilizes four staff members, a part-time office manager, one full-time writer, one ad salesperson and one part-time person who formats layout and design and handles the social media and public relations.

The rest of the Kingsbury Journal staff is comprised of volunteers. They fill many roles including contributing writers, copy editors, proofreading, legal help, finances, circulation and helping with online content. The Journal also uses volunteers for photography, distribution, correspondents, advertising sales, information technology and publishing.

Volunteers laid the foundation of this newspaper, and without them, there would not be a Kingsbury Journal today. If you are willing to help, the Kingsbury Journal has a task for you.

WHAT KIND OF VOLUNTEERS
ARE NEEDED AT A NEWSPAPER?

There are many jobs and tasks involved in running a newspaper. That means there is a good likelihood to find a fit as a volunteer.

Writing assignments come in a variety of forms. If you enjoy hearing someone’s story and then sharing it, you have a good foundation. We need writers who can write an occasional article about their neighborhood, township, school, activities, concerts or community and sporting events. A writer who could cover a city council, county commission or a schoolboard meeting would be greatly appreciated.

Covering a school board meeting would only require a few hours observing, taking notes and documenting for the paper once a month. If you are afraid your writing skills may be a little rusty, we will work with you.

If you are good with English and grammar, being a copy editor or a proofreader might be a good fit for you. You read the articles and make corrections or improve the readability. This might require anywhere from a few hours a week to ten hours a week, depending on the amount of material the Journal needs to cover.

If you have an idea for a newspaper volunteer, and it has not been mentioned yet, run the idea by us; we will probably give you a shot at it.

Are you good at photography? Would you like to get better? Take some pictures around the community at events and games. Photojournalists are just as necessary for a newspaper as writers are. Photos draw the reader into a story.

Penny Warne volunteers for the Kingsbury Journal as a copy editor and proofreader; on a slow news week, she may spend just seven hours working, but on a busy week, she puts in close to fifteen hours. “My English education background gave me the confidence to volunteer, but the opportunity of learning something new gave me the initiative,” said Warne.

The Associated Press (AP) has a set style and standards for newspapers, and Warne said she strives for consistency, accuracy, clarity and brevity, guidelines set by the AP.

WHAT DO I NEED?

As a volunteer you need to be open, eager to learn, committed and willing to be part of a team. The hours can be flexible. The tools you need will be provided, along with training. If you would rather partner up with someone first, we will be glad to provide you with that.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Depending on their expectations, experiences have varied for our volunteers. One of our volunteers felt the job was harder than expected but has adapted well. That comes with learning any new skill. You will be slower at first, but once you start to master the skill, it becomes easier to accomplish. Other volunteers at Kingsbury Journal felt the work was easier than they thought it would be. Everyone’s perspectives are different.

Working for a newspaper is like being an archivist. An archivist takes something important and stores it away to preserve it. A newspaper observes, then documents; it distributes and finally archives. “We need that paper for archival purposes,” said Warne.

Volunteer James Jesser shared his reasons for volunteering, “It was very sad for our community when the De Smet News closed. I was pretty excited about the idea of another paper starting and continuing the history. I just wanted to be involved; I enjoy writing, and I enjoy working with people.” Writing and sharing stories is rewarding, it is especially true when you meet someone who compliments you on your article.

WHAT WILL I GET
OUT OF THE EXPERIENCE?

Every person is unique and brings something different to the table, and this shows in the Kingsbury Journal. We have received feedback that many subscribers enjoy the variety of content brought by our team of contributors.

You will find that documenting the events and history of the community can be quite rewarding. What you observe and write about may be shared with someone not even born yet. You will be preserving history.

Depending on your type of writing, you may bring a smile to a person’s face. Maybe you captured a great photo of a grandchild swinging a baseball bat at his first game, and it is shared with his grandparents. You will be part of that. Throw in graduations and weddings, and the sense of accomplishment will be great.

Being a newspaper volunteer will have its ups and downs. Writing a story about a family who lost their house and pet dog to a fire is hard emotionally. Think about the positives from the event and spin the story that way. The fact that the family all made it out of the fire without serious injuries is great, or the fact the fire department showed up quickly and kept the fire from spreading to a neighbor’s house is another success story. There are many paths your stories can lead the reader to. What paths you take is up to you.

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