[techwr-l] Newsletter Guidance -- Summary (long)

Subject: [techwr-l] Newsletter Guidance -- Summary (long)
From: "Halter, Meg" <HalterMC -at- navair -dot- navy -dot- mil>
To: "TECHWR-L, a list for all technical communication issues" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 08:38:36 -0700

Hello everybody --

A few days ago I asked for recommendations of references on putting together
a newsletter. The response has been gratifying. People not only suggested
references, they offered much advice, URLs to newsletters and in one case
mailed me a huge stack of back issues of their newsletter (thanks Greg!)

Here's another question: I plan to turn this gold into an article in the
newsletter. In the article, should I name all the contributors? It seems the
right thing to do, but I'm not too clear on privacy issues in print versus
on this list server.

Since several people are interested in the results, here is a summary.
Thanks to Dianne Driskell, Laura Hardy, Greg Van Pelt, Jacque Foreman, Bruce
Byfield, Chungte Cheng, Jane Bergen, Sharon Pierce, Ava Carmel, Betsy
Pfister, Dennis Hanrahan and Patricia Kalman! Not only have I received good
information, I've gained a sense of community.

-- Meg
Several people offered URLs to newsletters posted to the web

Austin STC newsletter. http://stc.org/region5/aus/publications/news.html

If you'd like to see our newsletter, go to
http://www.stc.org/region8/occ/www/ocstc.htm and click on "Newsletter." The
first two issues available as PDF files are August 1999 (my successor's
first issue) and June 1999 (my final issue).
Lots of books were recommended

"How to do Leaflets, Newsletters, and Newspapers" by Nancy Brigham with
Maria Catalfio and Dick Cluster. Publisher is PEP Publishers, and is
distributed by Writer's Digest Books.

For design purposes, try Robin Williams "The Non-Designer's Design Book" to
get you up and running, and Robert Bringhurst's "The Elements of Typographic
Style" to tell you the details.

Two authors: Mark Beach and Roger C. Parker. You can't go wrong with either
one, and both of them have several books each on newsletters. Check with
Amazon, Barnes&Noble, etc.

For a nice easy layout/DTP book, try "Looking Good in Print" (I forget the
Several websites were recommended

Here's a website on putting together a newsletter. Put It in Writing

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/writers/ has links concerning editing. There
is also an online newsletter called Editorial Eye at
http://www.eeicom.com/eye/. You can search their index for articles that
might be of interest you.

You can also look at the STC special interest group for marketing
communications. They discuss various tools including newsletters. They can
be found at http://stc.org/pics/marcom/
And there was lots of good advice. I suspect much of it was learned in the
school of hard knocks.
We use FrameMaker to produce the newsletter and then we create a postscript
and PDF rendition for the printer. It has been a lot of fun and also very
challenging. We faced various issues such as getting the newsletter to the
printer on time (getting the articles from volunteers in a timely manner),
going through an editing process, making sure that the page continuation was
right (cross-references), selecting new paper stock, creating a new
masthead, and many other political, personal, and technological issues. All
I can say is, you have signed up for a very stressful (yet challenging)
task, and you need the help of that previous editor to get the ball rolling!
I served as the newsletter print coordinator (not the editor), but I saw
what my managing editor had to deal with! Not meaning to scare you away from
your volunteer work, but be prepared for an initial period of frustration.
You might want to consider breaking down your staff like we did, to include
four print editors (besides the managing editor), a print coordinator (me),
and various newsletter contributors (including a writer for the monthly
feature). You should also include a chapter meeting map for your local STC
chapter. Finally, don't forget to print extra copies for handing out at the
meetings (for chapter publicity and for new members). I can remember a few
times that we had shortfalls, and we had to increase the print run numbers
(last run was 750 copies). However, if you find a good printer, then they
can print-on-demand if you need more copies.
I do the weekly newsletter for my Rotary club. Here are my words of wisdom
that are worth approximately what you are paying for them. They are in no
special order, and I will probably leave some out. First let me say this,
feel free to ask me specific questions as they come up. If I am busy, it may
take a day to get back to you, but I will get back to you. Now to the points
of wisdom I have learned after doing this for a little over a year.

1. You are doing this for free, so only a few will appreciate it.
2. There will be a lot of people who just want you to cover just one more
kind of information. My answer is " that is a wonderful Idea, let's get
together and design a column head for you, and we'll give you a byline."
You'd be surprised how fast it isn't a good idea any more.
3. Get as many people as you can to contribute articles - preferably not
particularly crucial timewise so you can use them as space is available.
4. Do not be afraid to vary the size of type from one issue to the next,
depending on the amount of information you have to put in. While the type
size should be consistent within each issue, mine varies from 10pt to 12pt,
depending on the issue.
5. Pick a deadline day and time and stick to it. This can be difficult if
you are slated to have a contribution from, say, the President, in each
issue. So, pick a time on the day you choose that is actually 2 to 3 hours
before you actually need it. Mine is 6p on Saturday. I actually start work
on the issue more like at 8p. And this is the time I phone and email
contributors and ask them point blank if they know where their articles were
suppose to have been at 6p.
6. If you have people in your group who have hobbies, e.g. wine tasting,
English grammar, boating, whatever, see if you can get them to do a
regular/irregular column. It's informative, interesting, and it's space you
don't have to fill.
7. Check to see if there is a website or even two or three from which you
can glean helpful information. Just remember to give credit where credit is
8. Learn to use the word "NO." Practice in front of the mirror if you have
to. But be firm, and don't let someone's incremental requests for more and
more from you happen. You don't have to be mean or surly, just firm. But
sometimes and with some people only surly works. Trust me!
9. It's easier to compile if all the inclusions come to you email, next
accept discs, next is by fax, especially if you have character recognition
software, but ask for 12pt type. Last is handwritten.
10. Do as little of the actual writing as possible. The more in the group
who "own" the newsletter the better.
I have produced several newsletters and used Word for some. Recently for a
new one I used Framemaker (and I had never used FM before!). I used a FM
newsletter template so that saved me from having to set up columns, etc. and
I have modified the saved copy of the template to suit my needs. Word can do
the job but it is somewhat touchy but I still use it for some of the
newsletters since the format is all set up.
I recently took over as editor of my local STC chapter newsletter, and just
sent the first issue off to print. What I did was ask the former editor how
she organized the newsletter. It is eight pages long, and she explained
that she uses the most eye-catching article on the front page. Longer
articles are inside, and the back page is usually a humorous article. I
carefully examined former issues and followed her lead, keeping the same
layout, and using the former issue as a template (in FrameMaker).

I get articles by asking people to write them. When someone gave an
interesting presentation at a tech writers' gettogether, I asked her to
write it up and she did. We have an Israeli tech writers' list, and
whenever someone writes an interesting answer to a question, I email them
asking them to write it up for the newsletter. In addition, I contact
writers and graphic artists I know and ask them to write articles.
I don't know of any books on this subject, but I think the best way to learn
is by doing, with the guidance of a previous editor, which is exactly the
course you've chosen. I've been the editor of our newsletter for the past
two years, with some degree of success...our newsletter won awards of
Excellence and Most Improved among chapters over 300 members in the Society
newsletter competition. This coming year, I'll be one of the competition
judges. The point of all this is that I might be able to give you some help
if you direct specific questions to this email address..
To begin with, the former editor may have already established editorial
guidelines. They should be giving you a lot of ideas how they approached
this job; be sure to have compiled a list of questions for them plus, ask if
they will be available after you take over in case new questions arise.

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