Paper copies

You know what is currently frustrating me? No? Ah, well let me just tell you then.

Many of my best writing clips are not in digital format. In fact, most of my favorite clips from my stint as a reporter at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs are not. The Sun’s archives switched formats not long after I left the paper, plus you have to pay a fee to access archives that go back past a certain date anyway. So many of those clips are only accessible to me 1) if I pay for them and they’re actually even still available in the archives, 2) if I could get access to LexisNexis, which I can’t because it is SO incredibly expensive for individuals and it’s unavailable through our local library, or 3) in paper format.

So when I apply for writing jobs or send queries to pitch story ideas to magazines and websites, I have to either send digital copies of other stories or links to other stories OR I have to send paper copies of my old newspaper stories. I really hate to waste paper by sending out multiple copies of old stories to people who may just glance at them and then toss them into the trash. But I think that some of my paper copies represent some of my strongest stories. I think my pitches are more likely to get noticed if they are accompanied by proof that I’ve written some really good stuff. You know, as in ‘Hey, Ms. Magazine Editor: check THIS out!’

Not that the articles and stories that I’ve written that are still online are bad. They’re not. (Take a look: check out the column to the right.) But some of my favorites aren’t there, like the huge article I wrote about a high school freshman who was paralyzed in a freak accident and who, along with his family, had to adjust to a new kind of life. Or the series of feature stories I wrote about a graduating high school class; we called it “The Last 100 Days,” and it won an honorable mention award in Gannett’s quarterly awards. Or the story I wrote about a group of churchgoers who hiked up a mountain on Good Friday so they could pray the Stations of the Cross in the foothills of the Santa Rosas. Or the story I wrote about teenagers who drink and drive and pay the consequences. Or the series I wrote about gifted education programs and how they often get the short shrift in today’s test-oriented educational system. I love those stories. I threw myself into them, and I think the effort paid off. But for a potential employer or client to see them, they have to look at paper copies. And we all know how lousy a newspaper clip can look when it’s been copied on a photocopier.

Recently I investigated the possibility of scanning in some of those old newspaper and making them into PDFs, and I may still do that for some of my favorites. It is not cheap, though. When the local copy shop told me how much it would cost per page, I gulped. But it’s still probably cheaper than trying to buy a subscription to LexisNexis. And ultimately it may be worth it to show off some of my best work.

Unless anyone else has some better ideas. I’m happy to entertain them!


About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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4 Responses to Paper copies

  1. ericahawleyscime says:

    The topics you mention sound exciting to write! I will be studying journalism next year at Ryerson and hope to be given such interesting stories!

  2. I started scanning 30 years of newsprint clips into my PC sometime last year and got about a third of the way before running up against two obstacles:

    1. My A4 sized scanner can only handle magazine articles and shortish tabloid or broadsheet clips. There are stitching programs, but they’re not great with old newsprint.

    2. The scanning didn’t take too long, the cleaning up takes forever. My guess is an outsourced service wouldn’t do this part of the job properly.

    As soon as I’m not busy (yeah, right!) I’ll get on with the job.

  3. shabjoon says:

    Would there be any possibility of sending a word-processed version or ‘transcript’ so to speak? I guess that probably violates the copyright…
    There HAS to be a way! When you started, my first thought was pdf. If you have a lot to do, then a service would definitely be worth it. The other thing that is possible would be some sort of text recognition software. That could also cost more than you’re willing to pay and you still would have to go through the article to make sure that it all translated over correctly.

    I’ll keep thinking! Sounds like some very interesting stories!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Sigh. Bill’s had the exact same experience I had when trying to manually scan in a bunch of stuff. So tedious and time-consuming, not to mention it doesn’t really provide terrific results. Oh well.

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