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Working with News Media

Appearance and Design

The news release page can have a different head or stationery style depending on what your county has used in the past. Most counties have the office address and phone number at the top of the page with the words, News Release, in bold lettering. Some include a contact for more information below the address; others place the contact at the bottom. Example 1, below, shows how one county handles the format for a news release page. Example 2 below contains a calendar page from another county.

Whatever style your county chooses, be sure that the media can quickly and readily identify the page as an ISU Extension news release. Use the current extension wordmark, not the one with the lines leading from University to Extension.

Example 1: County News Release

(Use County Letterhead)

ISU EXTENSION and OUTREACH, SCOTT COUNTY
NEWS RELEASE
September 23, 2011
For Immediate Release
Topic:
Contact:

Example 2: County News Calendar Page

(Use County Letterhead)

ISU EXTENSION and OUTREACH, DUBUQUE COUNTY
NEWS RELEASES
From: 

Date:

ISU Extension Calendar:

Guide for Formatting Content

Use these guidelines when writing a news release:

  • Put release instructions on each release. Include the person or persons to contact for more information. Radio and television stations appreciate being able to contact someone outside of normal office hours. Their deadlines are often tight. If a story should not be released after a certain date, include a "kill date."
  • Give your story a headline. Editors may rewrite your headline, but at least it will give them an idea of what the story is about.
  • Start the first page about one-third the way down. This leaves room for the editor's instructions.
  • Indent paragraphs five spaces or if using the flush left format, leave a double space between paragraphs.
  • Use short paragraphs. Narrow newspaper columns linked with long paragraphs are hard for the audience to read.
  • Use wide margins--at least 1 inch.
  • To show that the story is continued, type MORE at the bottom center if the additional page is on a separate sheet of paper, or OVER if additional page is on the back of the first sheet. It is acceptable to use the backs of pages to save paper.
  • At the top left of the second page (if a separate sheet), type ADD ONE and the headline.
  • At the end of the story, in the center of the page, type -30-.
  • Write columns in the first person.
  • It is suggested that the justice statement be included at the end of the release after the -30-. Do not include the justice statement in the release itself.
  • If you are enclosing a photograph, type PHOTO ENCLOSED at the end of the release after the -30-.
  • Be concise, specific, accurate, and organized. Limit each sentence to one idea. Never write in extension jargon; use common vocabulary. Identify acronyms on first reference.
Style Guidelines

Most newspapers follow Associated Press style guidelines. The most common guidelines for written words are listed here. Use them when writing news releases, columns, and newsletters.

Ampersand (&)
Use an ampersand only when it is part of a company's formal name, for example, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In all other cases use and.

Days
Always spell out the days of the week. (The meeting was held Friday, Jan. 15.)

Dollars
Use $4, not $4.00. With millions, drop the zeros. For example, use $1.5 million, not $1,500,000.

Hours
Use 8 p.m., not 8:00 p.m. or 8 P.M.

Months
Capitalize the names of the months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out March, April, May, June, and July. Spell out all months when using alone or with a year alone. (It happened in January 1988.)

Numbers
Spell out numbers from one through nine. Use numerals for 10 and above. However, also use numerals with percentages. And spell out numbers when they start a sentence except if the number is a year, for example, 1993. 4-H can start a sentence.

Percents
Always use numerals and spell out percent instead of using the percent sign. For example, 3 percent.

Periods and Commas
Always place them inside quotation marks.

Region Names
Lowercase the region unless it stands alone. (I live in east central Iowa, which is in the Midwest.)

Said, Says
Place the noun first then the verb. (Popeye says. Popeye said. Popeye added.)

Seasons of the Year
Lowercase the seasons of the year. (spring, not Spring)

News Release Distribution Procedures

The image of Iowa State University Extension is reflected in everything released from your office. Therefore, it is extremely important that all news releases and other materials are high quality.

News Releases by Field Staff

In general, each county contact person is responsible for releasing news items to the appropriate media at the appropriate time. Media releases may be prepared by the media specialist, subject matter field specialists, program assistants, and other county-based and state staff, but consult with your county contact person about releasing them.

The county contact person may delegate the responsibility for certain types of media releases. For instance, if the decision has been made to automatically send a news release prepared by a field specialist to local outlets, the office assistant may routinely distribute that item. A program assistant may also be given the responsibility for all news related to the youth program.

News Releases by Campus Staff

Extension Communications staff send some news releases direct to the media. These releases also are placed on the ISU Extension web site at /news. Contact Extension Communications for more information about who received a particular news release.

The ISU Extension News site also publishes as needed, fill-in-the-blank news releases for County Extension Offices to edit and post on their web sites or provide to their local media.


Time Schedule for News Releases

You may find it helpful to develop a monthly calendar of extension events to track what news releases need to be written and distributed. Here is an example:

Dec.17
2 p.m., Youth Committee Meeting

Dec. 18
9:30 a.m., 4-H, FFA Weigh-ins
10 a.m., Extension Committee meeting

Dec. 24-25
Deadlines--PAT exams, 4-H scholarships, fair

Dec. 31 - Jan. 1
Office closed

Jan. 7
9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., Ag meeting

Jan. 8
9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Satellite meeting