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Chapter Newsletter Editor Workshop

AirVenture Oshkosh 2006

What Makes a Good Story?

Know Your Audience: EAAers are hands-on participants, active in all facets of aviation. That’s why how-to is a common theme in each issue’s mix of feature stories and departments. EAA is also about people. This means a successful article doesn’t tell what someone did in recreational aviation—it shows how he or she did it. Joe Homebuilder’s RV-6, for example, is not as interesting to readers as Building an RV-6 for Less Than $30K.

Tell a Story: No matter the subject, a good article is a narrative with a story line—a beginning, middle, and end—that engages the reader. Look beyond the obvious. For example, anyone can write My First Flight to EAA AirVenture, and they would all sound pretty much the same. A writer with vision would look at EAA AirVenture and see 200 Miles a Day for Operation Thirst or Camp Scholler: How the Neighborhood Has Changed Over 25 Years.

Look beyond the obvious: Be specific. Focus on one part of the whole. In how-to articles, teach by example, not by a chronological monologue or lecture. It’s not a textbook. And it’s not numbers connected by words foreign to the vocabulary of the average pilot. Naturally, the story involves an EAAer, and to get a feel of what we’re looking for, study the last few issues.

Connect With Readers: Ultimately, a good article in some way enriches the reader’s aviation interest. EAAers are ordinary people of ordinary means with an extraordinary passion for aviation. Be the reader’s eyes, ears, fingers, and nose. Avoid jargon, but don’t talk down to them; more than 80 percent are private pilots. Explain new terms concisely, or include a glossary. If the article is math heavy, include a spreadsheet that allows readers to plug in the variables.

Using Stories for Best Benefit

A chapter newsletter’s mission in life is to:

    • Inform members

    • Educate members

    • Entertain members

    • Attract new members

Does your newsletter pass the Coffee Table Test? If you saw it on a table at the airport, would you pick it up to read? Why?

    • Clean, clear nameplate, readable from 10-15 feet

    • Chapter name, address, city, state, website, and issue date

    • Appealing cover content that says, “Pick me up—READ ME!”

If you only have one good article, use it first. You only have one opportunity to attract a reader!

Copyright: What you can—and cannot—do strong>What Is Copyright

Copyright is legal protection for authors of published and unpublished works. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright (the author) the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to:

    • To reproduce the work

    • To distribute copies to the public

    • To display the work publicly

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy for the first time. In other words, the article is copyrighted when the author hits the word processors save button. For works originally created after January 1, 1978, the copyright is in effect for the author’s life, plus 70 years.

Authors can transfer any or all of their rights. The transfer of exclusive rights requires a written and signed agreement. Transfer of a right—such as first rights—on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement.

When offer a manuscript, all they are not giving it to the publication—they are giving the publication permission to publish it. Most publications use “first rights,” meaning the author has given them permission to be the first publication to publish the story once (in print, or digitally, or both, if done at the same time). Under first rights, the author cannon authorize another publication to run the article until after it appears in the first publication.

Many newspapers use one-time rights, which gives them permission to run the story once, and concurrent publication in other publications isn’t restricted. At the other end of the spectrum is “all rights.” Few authors agree to this because it gives the publication permission to publish the article as many times as it wants, and to sell or give permission to other publications to do the same thing.

Copyright imposes no restrictions on editing an article for publications. That’s a process editors and authors must work out on their own. Copyright does prohibit editors from giving other publications the right to reprint an author’s work. Because the author doesn’t surrender ownership of the article’s copyright, only the author can give reprint rights. For this reason, your newsletter or website should not invite others to use the articles is presents because it violates the copyright of those who wrote the articles. However, if the author gives you permission (and you should have it in writing), you can add a line to the end of the story inviting others to reprint the story.

Ultimately, communication between the editor and author is the key to an amicable copyright agreement and understanding. When the editor accepts an article, it can be as simple as saying, “Thanks! I’d like to run your story in the next issue, and post it on our website at the same time. And if anyone else wants to reprint it, I’ll send them to you directly. Does that work for you?” If the author agrees, you’re ready to begin the editing process.

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