"Why didn't the Sun-Star help us?" -- a question I've been asked several times lately. "After all, you write for them, why didn't they show up?"
Recently, my Kiwanis Club sponsored an event in Atwater, "William C. Lacey Child Safety Day." It was well attended; we made a lot of parents and kids mighty happy.
We gave away 21 brand-new bicycles and helmets and loads of other goodies. More than 100 children were fingerprinted and photographed. Kids and parents enjoyed free hot dogs, popcorn, fruit drinks, bottled water and helium-filled balloons.
They also saw fire safety demonstrations, canal safety demonstrations, electric safety demonstrations and food safety tips.
Nearby, moms were getting free inspections of child car seats.
Merced County also gave away free immunizations. That didn't make those kids so happy.
But we didn't get any news coverage -- before, during or after the event.
What did we do wrong?
We did send out the traditional press release -- but maybe to the wrong folks. I sent it to the reporters who cover the Atwater and education beats.
I did put the event on the Sun-Star's calendar of events -- a handy online feature.
Unfortunately, there are no written guidelines on how to submit story or news ideas.
Afterward, I found I should have used a different route. Mike Tharp, the executive editor, said, "Announcement of future events should always go to Connie Hodges for the 'Around Town' column: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's also a link where you can submit story ideas. It's the "Submit News" tab at the top of the home page -- takes you to http://www.mercedsunstar.com/299.
Would using either of these methods have made any difference? There's no way to tell.
With the current size of the paper, there is too much competition for each precious column inch. I suspect choosing what to cover and what not to cover is the hardest part of the editors' jobs.
I didn't make any phone calls. I know better. Unless it's an emergency and breaking news, they prefer alternate methods.
If you do decide to call about a story idea, avoid afternoons. The 5:30 p.m. deadline takes their full attention -- and then some.
I did not request any special treatment because of this column. That's not my style nor is it appropriate.
I'll probably pay a fine at an upcoming Kiwanis Club meeting -- since I'm the publicity committee chairman, and I didn't get 'er done.
But the fine will only be a quarter.
There's always next year. If I'm still publicity chairman, I'll try the other methods.
If you see an article next May, you'll know it worked better.
Or maybe there was a slow news day.
Tom Frazier writes Sun Dog and can be reached at email@example.com.