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What is a press release?

A press release or news release is a way for a news source to provide information to the newspaper. That information preferably will be typed, but handwritten releases are acceptable as long as they are legible. The subject matter can vary as widely as the interests of our readers -- politics, sports, business, religion, community activities.

There is absolutely no set formula for determining the newsworthiness of activities or events. In general, releases telling about upcoming events will get more attention than releases reciting what has already passed. It's more useful to our readers to know what's coming, especially if they may choose to participate. The exceptions include lists of event winners or the amount of money collected by a fundraising event.

The news source

The Southern Illinoisan needs the name of a contact person for each news release. This would be the person whom editors could call for clarification or additional information.
Ordinarily, the author of the release will be the contact person, whether he or she is a club publicity chairman, a scout leader or a school staff member. The contact's name and telephone number should be clearly stated on the release.
We ask that the news source submit the information at least 10 days ahead of the latest day for publication. We will try to print items submitted on shorter notice if newsworthy, but a cushion will make the process easier.
Even with the advance notice, The Southern Illinoisan cannot guarantee publication, or publication on any particular day.

Writing guidelines for press releases

Some news releases come to us in the form of outlines or promotional fliers, rather than full text. We'll do our best with these, but some details might not get the emphasis desired by the news source. We would much prefer full-text releases.

Care should be taken to assure correct spellings of names, both of people and of organizations. Southern Illinoisan editors will not know most of the people named in the press release. We must rely on the release's author to have the names spelled correctly.

Our style is to use both first and last names on first reference to people identified in a news story. Be sure the press release includes both.

Details must be correct. The press release author must be sure of the complete accuracy of the title for a guest speaker, for example.

The complete name of an organization -- not just initials -- should be given. It's also important to include a brief description of the organization's operation or mission.

Always give the time and date of an upcoming event -- not just the day of the week. Give street addresses to help guide participants to your event.

You know what message you want your press release to convey. Some essentials: Who is doing what? Where and when -- and perhaps why -- is it happening? Those bits of information should be stated at or near the beginning of the press release. Try to focus on the top news element -- for instance, the main item of business on the agenda -- rather than merely stating that your group is holding a meeting.

Newspapers want their stories to be concise, direct and objective. Thus, strong adjectives and promotional statements (such as "you will be sure to enjoy this event" or "this is a very worthy cause") should be avoided.

News stories may invite readers to call for more information or to register for an event. Two phone numbers can be listed, although it is preferable to use only one.

A list of an organization's officers should put names first, titles second: Jane Jones, president.

Sample Press Release

May 1, 2010
Gregory D. Stevens of Herrin was one of 17 national winners in the 15th annual Space Science Student Involvement Program.
The competition is sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Teachers Association. The winners were recognized during the National Space Science Symposium in Washington, D.C.
Stevens, a junior at Herrin High School, was a winner in the diagram/schematic category of the Mars settlement architecture contest.
Joan Stevens

Sample Press Release

May 1, 2010
The Melody Makers Women's Chorus of Marion will resume fall rehearsals at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, in the choir room at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 123 Main Street.
Melody Makers is a member of the Illinois Women's Chorus Inc., which participates in an annual convention and concert each spring in an Illinois city.
All women who enjoy singing are invited to the Melody Makers Chorus. All three voice parts are needed. The group also needs an assistant accompanist, who will receive a special gratuity for participating.
For more information call 555-9913 or 555-4127.
Joan Stevens
Publicity Chairperson

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