How to teach reporters to write

Sep 1, 2021

Publisher, Lexington (South Carolina) Chronicle

Community newspaper editors and publishers have a growing problem.

Where can they find experienced reporters who can write their way out of a paper bag?

Please forgive the cliche, but the labor market is against us.

The best most of us can do is to recruit local people.

Many of them might not have written anything longer than a grocery list.

That means we have to coach and show them how.

In 40 years of coaching, many editors complained to me that college graduates can’t write compellingly.

By compellingly, they mean to write in an engaging way, a connecting way that persuades their readers.

Many of us need to break through a clutter of words in print, on the air, on billboards and everywhere we turn.

Clear thinking leads to clear writing and vice versa.

It’s what your wannabe reporters need to learn to do.

A new book, The Art of Compelling Writing, aims to aid you in coaching them.

The book is fun and easy to read. I can make that claim because I wrote it.

Included in the book are examples from writers and editors who influenced me.

I hope they will influence you, too.

The book has been compiled from notes to our reporters.

The notes also went to more than 50 newspapers, colleges and news services where I coached.

The book is designed to help you and your people find the right words and use them.

Earl Nightingale observed that writers with few words are like workmen with few tools.

Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like lightning and the lightning bug.”

You can almost hear the thunder.

A digital edition of The Art of Compelling Writing is available at for $9.99.

Pub Aux readers can have it for $4.99 by writing me at

Jerry Bellune and his family publish two weekly newspapers and a daily local news and sports website at that attracts up to 3,000 visitors a day.