Archive for May 21st, 2009

Writing for Radio: Strike While the Market Is Hot

Laura BridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater

Despite news stories of doom and gloom in the traditional media, radio is not having a dour hour. A recent Washington Post article reported that National Public Radio has achieved record ratings “at a time when newspapers, magazines and TV news continue to lose readers and viewers.”

If you are a freelance writer interested in writing for radio, strike while the market is hot.

Freelancing for radio is similar to freelancing for print markets. As always, know your audience. You wouldn’t pitch a story idea about motivating your toddler to eat more veggies to Smith & Wesson magazine. Likewise, what works for talk radio won’t work for public radio.

You also wouldn’t sell two competing national magazines the same article, so don’t sell radio stations in the same broadcast area the same script. There’s no reason to burn bridges or airwaves.

When writing a query letter to propose a story, “Dear Editor” is not the appropriate person to address in the salutation, nor is “Dear Program Manager.” To find the appropriate person to address in your query letter to a radio market, read the radio station’s website for contact information, staff bios, and submission guidelines, if available. Often, the news director is a good person to direct your query to. If you are still unsure about where to send or email your query, make a quick phone call to the receptionist.

Everyone’s busy these days and everyone has email overload. If you are querying by email, make your subject line snappy so your email isn’t glossed over. Avoid aggressive spam filters by sending your query and script in the body of the email. Do not use attachments unless the submission guidelines state otherwise. Attachments include text documents, audio files, and photographs.

After a few weeks, if you haven’t heard back about your query, follow up to see if the station received it and if the news director or other appropriate person had a chance to review it.

You can apply most information about freelancing for print markets to freelancing for radio markets. For more advice about the nuts and bolts of freelancing, read Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments by Jenna Glatzer.

We’ll talk about where to find radio markets in next month’s column. If the Washington Post article is accurate, those markets will continue to grow and writers will be in demand. Hopefully, WaPo and its kin will be around to report it.

Laura Bridgwater is a writer, teacher, and radio commentator. To listen to or read a transcript of her commentary, visit KUNC FM 91.5. She can be reached at


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