Art and Press: A few things to remember when contacting local newspapers

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art Fag City. Sherwin graduated from Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois) in 2003 -- he studied art and psychology extensively. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 22,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

It often seems that artists twiddle their thumbs concerning local press. For whatever reason, many artists are nervous about contacting local newspapers about an upcoming art exhibit or other accomplishment. Other artists feel that contacting local press is a waste of time (they automatically assume that the newspaper won't be interested). This much is certain: if you avoid local newspapers – don't expect them to seek you out. Put your fears / cynical attitude aside long enough to reach out to local press. The following suggestions will offer you a few things to think about AND will give you a basic understanding of what to expect. Note: This article was written with small / local newspapers in mind.


Making Contact:

1.) A press release may be your best friend when first making contact with a local newspaper. Most newspaper websites provide contact information for editors and specific reporters. You should send a brief email message to the editor and reporter (preferably a reporter who covers local cultural events) along with an attached press release. Note: Your email message will likely end up being ignored... sending it before further contact is basically a 'courtesy step'.


2.) Keep the message and press release on target. Focus on the "who, what, where, when and why's" of the accomplishment you want to discuss (be it an upcoming exhibit, art competition win, new series of artwork, a book about your art that you plan to publish, launch of a new artist website... etc.). Note: Carolyn Henderson, a regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, has written about how to write a press release in the past. I have offered some thought about press releases as well.


3.) If the newspaper does not respond to your email (which will likely be the case) you will have to up your efforts. At that point you will want to mail a physical copy of your message and press release information to the newspaper OR call the newspaper to see if you can visit the office (and a specific reporter) with your press release information in hand. Again, I'm thinking in terms of small town / small city newspapers – you will find that most of them welcome direct contact. Be polite!


4.) If you visit the newspaper office directly and break the ice with the editor or reporter, you will want to schedule a time to meet with the reporter. That said, don't be surprised if the reporter (assuming he or she is interested) decides to conduct the interview on the spot. Be prepared for that if you are able to visit the office directly.


5.) Consider the comfort level of the reporter if he or she decides to meet with you at a later date. For example, he or she may not be comfortable conducting the interview at your home studio (you are a stranger). Depending on the accomplishment you wish to discuss... it would probably be best to meet with the reporter at your local gallery (if it is in the same town/city) or meet at another public location -- preferably one that is close to the newspaper office.


Some Other Thoughts:

1.) Be prepared to provide the reporter with photos. The reporter will likely have a camera on hand... BUT your publicity photos -- taken in advance -- will probably look better than what he or she can achieve on the spot. My experience has been that small newspaper reporters LOVE it when people provide their own photographs (it is less work for them). However, it is best to discuss all of this in advance... because the reporter may insist on taking pictures – and you want to look your best!


2.) The reporter will likely take notes on paper while interviewing you. You can help to prevent confusion over specific statements by taping the interview. Recording the interview is helpful for two reasons: 1.) The reporter can be offered a copy so that he or she can use it when writing the article (which increases the chance of the article being accurate). 2.) By recording the interview you can prove, if needed, what exactly you said during the interview -- this goes 10 fold if you happen to have controversial opinions... or explore controversial themes with your art. Note: Make sure that the reporter is OK with you recording the conversation.


3.) Remember that it is up to you to spell-check the reporter. For example, you will want to go over the spelling of names so that the reporter spells them correctly. If your surname is difficult for some people to spell... the reporter may have trouble as well. If you mention other artists or art galleries... don't be afraid to ask the reporter if he or she spelled the names correctly while taking notes. You may even want to provide the reporter with a list of artist / gallery names mentioned during the interview.


4.) The reporter may not be familiar with the terminology used within the art world. Point-blank, if he or she is not fluent in art speak the article could turn into a rambling mess. Don't try to impress the reporter with the big words of the art world. After all, if the reporter does not understand what the hell you are talking about... well, the general public probably won't either. Keep it basic -- get to the point!


5.) Keep in mind that newspapers reporters often have little to no control over their articles once they are submitted for print. The editor will decide when the article runs -- he or she will also decide how the headline is written. It is the editor's job to make changes. Needless to say, information that you feel is vital may end up removed from the article. Try not to get too upset about this... it is just part of the process.


6.) Expect a few mistakes in the article. Don't get angry unless there is just cause for being angry. After all, you want the newspaper to write about you again at some point, right? Don't make an enemy out of your local newspaper unless it is truly warranted. Going ballistic over a few typos is not worth severing the contact that you have established with the editor / reporter. Think about future press before going on the war path over trivial mistakes.


In closing, I'm sure that many of you have tips concerning how to handle local press. Feel free to share your experience and suggestions. Consider this an open thread concerning art and press on the local level.


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin



Editor's Note:  You can read Brian's original post here.


11 Responses to Art and Press: A few things to remember when contacting local newspapers

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
via faso.com
Hello Brian:

You have written this out so well, that I cannot think of anything additional. Thank you. I will make a copy of it though if that is o.k.

Brian Sherwin
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Sandy -- Sure. I'm glad you have found it useful.

via faso.com
I have had pretty good luck with the press. I go to a lot of local events, so our guy is familiar with my face, and what I do. I respond on his blog, too. The "big city" arts person has a Face Book blog, and I respond to that, too. In fact, I replied to something not really art-related (it was, however, about Christmas gift-making) and I ended up with a big spread on the front page of the "Leisure" section. LOTS of people told me they saw it, and they even posted it on walls.

We have another local paper, too, and the editor/owner lives locally, and is an activist. Again, she's out and about frequently, and we run into each other from time to time. We can correspond easily via e-mail. (This is a monthly, and covers the many small towns in our rural, tourist area). I will pay her back by buying an ad soon, but several of the other "Open studios" artists have combined forces to do so from time to time.
Bottom line - get to know the press as actual people.

Judith Rothenstein-Putzer
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I've had a really positive experience with the local press. I would reiterate to keep press releases simple and to the point (less opportunity for error) and ALWAYS send at least one image. I actually had an experience where the publication did not run the press release; however,they contacted me 11 months later to use my image for a cover page (way better than the initial press release!). I also make it a habit of sending a thank you for every press release published (either email or snail-mail notecard with my artwork).

Brian Sherwin
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Karen -- Your bottom line is dead on. :) Get to know them as actual people. I think there is a stigma about reporters... people often assume they are jerks, or seeking to slice everything to pieces, for whatever reason. More often than not... that is simply not the case.

I know when I attended art fairs with a press badge hanging from my neck it often seemed that most of the gallery staff looked at me with a mix of desire and unease. They wanted the attention -- but at the same time they were clearly nervous about what I would think. There were always a few nerve-rattled booths. Ha.

I'm not a robot with a death ray... nor is your local reporter. Most of us are good people with a job to do. Spark up a conversation.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
via faso.com
Thank you Brian...Confession time..

I am usually afraid to strike up a conversation with a reporter...I am afraid they will think I have three heads, or something.

However, maybe what you wrote will help me get over some guilt I have felt for decades about speaking up to a reporter. (I was in my 20's at the time)

My work was accepted in a juried art exhibit.

I had also done illustrations for a book on Allegheny National Forest written by Lillian Young (now deceased) which was JUST published. No one knew about this achievement.

(Confession Time)
I overheard the reporter say that she was trying to find an intersting art angle to write about for the newspaper. She was thinking of maybe a couple of other better known artists and not me.

I got up my courage, nervous as heck, and approached her telling her about the book and the illustrations, etc.
She was immediately interested...and she did an incredible article for the newspaper...a whole page and a half with the illustrations and all.

I was totally stunned. She put the article on the front page and another page of the second section which was all about "Arts and Entertainment." I walked around on a cloud for a while enjoying what she wrote.

However, THERE had been just one thing that I have always felt bad about........ THAT I APPROACHED the reporter and ended up taking her attention away from the other artist or artists (I thought maybe) she had been considering. Although, they had not just illlustrated a book or had not done anything unusual at that time that could be written about other than being also juried into the show.

Father Brian, Should I still feel guilty? I mean, I took publicity away from another artist. It was the first and only time I ever stood up for something I had felt I needed publicity about...and still feel bad that I took the limelight from another artist.

I guess she oculd have written the article on whoever she felt like doing it on, but...

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Sandy -- You said, "I am usually afraid to strike up a conversation with a reporter...I am afraid they will think I have three heads, or something."

Chances are the reporter -- if it is at an exhibit or art fair -- is just as nervous in the sense, as you make clear, that he or she is trying to find an angle. Reporters have a job to do... they know their editor wants results.

For example, when I was sent to some of the big art fairs in NY and Miami I had no clue where I was going... every step was a step of discovery. It can be a lot to take in all at once -- with all that movement. I would have loved it if more artists / gallery staff had approached me head-on rather than sitting there as if my press badge had some hypnotizing power.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Sandy -- As for feeling bad about what you did. There is no need for that. Trust me, if the reporter did not like the angle she would have went with something else. That said, I know that some artists can get 'catty' when press is around... but it does not sound like you approached with that mentality. You were simply stating what you have to offer story-wise.

Here is some food for thought... do you think those other artists would have felt bad had they been covered instead of you? Probably not. There is no reason to feel guilty.

OOoooooo just so you know, writers in general LOVE to cover involvement with an upcoming book. Mat Gleason, over at Huffington Post, once told me that writing or illustrating a book is one of the best ways to land easy press.Plus there are tons of independent book review blogs online... and most of them are hungry to cover new releases -- even if it is self-published. That coverage may not reach the art community -- but it never hurts to have those links pointing back to your website. :)

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
via faso.com

Thank you very much... I have never looked at the reporters side like that. That really gives me a better understanding that they are out there working their butts off searching for something appealing and interesting for their readers. I imagine it can be hard work to find what they would like to find.

AND, thank you for explaining why I should not feel bad about getting the publicity for the illustrations of that book...It was a long time ago, but it still pops up once in a while and bothers me.
Again I had never looked at that side either while being too busy batting myself over the head.
No, you are right, I was not being catty...I just wanted her to know about the book, etc. thinking then she could do what she wanted. But, must admit, hoping too she would write at least something about it. She still wrote about the juried show, but then about a week later, she came to my studio a couple times with a photographer, and did the story.

I did not know reporters especially appreciated news about books and that kind of thing.

Thank you again. It is crazy how some things can bother you even if they should not. I was very young and did not want to hurt anyone. (well, don't want to hurt anyone now either...but you know what I mean.)

Jan Purcell
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(Sorry this response is so late in coming. I've been away and am just catching up on things.)
I write a weekly fine arts column for The Times of Trenton, NJ and receive a lot of press releases from artists who want coverage of their exhibits. It is very important that I receive a press release a month prior to the opening of the show so I can get it logged into my schedule. My deadline is one week before publication.
Another very important part of the press release is the date the exhibit will close. Because I'm always writing ahead and because we like to have a review appear 2 weeks before the close of the show so readers can make their plans and get there, that is very important.
And your suggestion is exactly right---stick to the tried and true Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Jan -- Thanks for offering an inside look. My wife works for a local newspaper -- in the sports department. The same issue can be found there... they have a tight schedule to follow. Pages are often prepared days in advance before everything goes to print -- and I imagine that same scenario can be found in other departments. Thus, it is reckless to expect attention after informing a local newspaper the night before an exhibit.

Topics: Inspiration