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Preflight Planning

When you do your own writing

Pre-flight 101

Desktop Publishing and Pre-press for the PIO


Use your spell check and grammar checker if possible--an easy and quick way to do a large part of your self editing.  A word of caution regarding spell checkers--they are notorious for substituting exactly the wrong word when used.  Double check your spelling manually.  If you’re not certain of the spelling, use a good dictionary. 


If writing for a magazine, attempt to get their writer’s guidelines.  If writing for a newspaper, you can find extracts from the AP Style Guide and the NY Times Manual online.  I recommend that you obtain Shrunk & White’s Elements of Style and Margaret Shertzer’s Elements of Grammar, both basic references for writers and inexpensive, as well.  At the very least, if you have a collegiate level dictionary, consult the grammar appendix.  There’s nothing worse that finally seeing you work in print, only to wince at the incredibly stupid errors you didn’t catch.

 Another good tip is to set the work aside after you’ve “polished” it, then reread it a few days later.  It’s amazing what a fresh perspective will reveal.

If you’re simply issuing a press release, the Internet has many sources, but using the format the ARRL uses is probably best.


I know you probably have a terrific word processor that’s more of a desk-top publishing program that an electronic typewriter, and you’ve invested in a number of font collections so you can make your finished product sing and show of your creativity.  In one word, don’t! Not only should you leave out all the fancy gee-gaws, you should save the final version in the most generic word processing file format you can--RTF, or Rich Text Format would be ideal.  Since the manuscript will be reformatted, you need to make importing the file into the publisher’s wordprocessor/typesetter as easy as possible.  This includes not putting hard returns at the end of each line, and if you’re not certain what a hard return is, consult your word processor’s help file.  Hard returns belong at the end of each paragraph only.   Not only will the typesetters and editors thank you, but if you make their job too difficult, they may rethink running your material at all.


If you’re including photos with your piece, here are a few guideposts to follow. First, resolution; the rule-of-thumb is that the resolution of any artwork (photos, graphics, drawings, etc.) should be at least twice the DPI (dots-per-inch) of the printing process.  Newspapers and magazines generally print at 72 and 144 dpi, respectively. Thus, the standard resolution for photos is 144 and 300 dpi.  (Yes, I know that two x 144 is not 300, but that’s defacto standard.) The best method is to scan photos at least at 600 dpi, and to take digital photos at as high a resolution as your camera will allow.  Then you can crop and caption copies of your artwork to fit your manuscript. Always edit copies.  If you make a mistake and crop the president of your club out of the photo, you always have the original and can start over again.  Once you’re finished, then reduce the resolution of the copies to the desired level.  Now, if you have the capability, go ahead and create a PDF file of the article with your art included.

Yes, I know, I’m apparently violating my own rules again, but there is method to my madness.  When you submit your article, you send in not only the PDF file, which we’ll call a proof, or paste-up, the RTF file of the manuscript but high resolution copies of the un-edited artwork.  This way, the editors have some idea of the look you have in mind for the article, and can reformat the raw manuscript and crop the hi-rez artwork to their standards for the best presentation possible.


Lastly, if you include anything in the manuscript that isn’t your own work, it’s best to attribute it to the source.  Type up a bibliography and include it with the submission, and keep copies on file.  Obtain signed permission forms for photos and keep them on file as well.  Failure to do so not only leave you and the publisher open to prosecution, but accusations of plagiarism.  Forgetting this simple fact has gotten a number of politicians into very deep trouble.


If the publisher is providing a photographer for your event, try to obtain copies and rights to use the credited photos, as well as reprints of the article in your PR material.  Do not use this as an opportunity to shop the article around for re-publication.  At the very least you’ll create a feeling of ill-will with that publisher.  At worst, they’ll never accept you work in the future.


Dress for Success -- Creating a Good Impression

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”


If an event or interview is to include both a reporter and a photographer, or is to covered by a local TV station, ensure that your appearance is a credit to yourself and your organization.  Suits and ties are not necessary unless the venue calls for it.  Business casual is usually sufficient unless you’re in the field, then work clothes are acceptable. Do try to avoid gaudy or vulgar tee-shirts and torn jeans.  In any case, do your best to look as neat an well groomed as circumstances will permit.

If the interview is to provide a local tie-in to a national or statewide story, or will spotlight on of your club members’ accomplishments, either arrange for the interview to occur at the best looking shack in the club, or if lead time permits, make sure the member’s shack is presentable to outsiders.  Remember to remind the subject of the interview of the dress code above.

Active equipment and flashing lights make for good visuals.  Low volume chatter from the rigs makes for good “wild sound.” Just make sure you don’t overdo it, and be aware of possible legal problems with rebroadcast of traffic. Keep the volume low enough to be audible, but not high enough to be intelligible. Remember, TV cameramen will want to shoot “B-roll,” extra video to be used to fill-in during talking head remarks and the lead-in and tail of the spot.  So be prepared to give a quick tour of the shack.


Those are the high spots in getting ready to interact with the media.  Undoubtedly occasions will arise that I haven’t covered, and that you haven’t prepared for.  Keep in mind that you’re trying to sell a product called “Amateur Radio” as well as win friends in the community and influence people. Just remember to keep cool and use your head.  Good luck.


Pat Mullet


Michigan Section PIO

Midland Amateur Radio Club/Midland County ARES PIO






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