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Neighborhood newsletters interest the folks who receive them. A good newsletter informs, entertains and encourages friendships and outreach in times of need because they encourage neighbors to be aware of each other. The writer-editor has a responsibility to set an appropriate tone, maintain appropriate boundaries and create a newsletter that's factual, accurate and interesting.
Craft the tone of the newsletter with care. Neighborhood newsletters work best when they convey a literate, conversational tone, but not one that's overly familiar or formal, gossipy, cute, filled with slang or ungrammatical.
Make a list of the types of articles each edition will contain and be consistent. If you're going to cover the neighborhood soccer team, do it or another neighborhood sports article in each edition. Ideas for regular articles include neighborhood sports events, club activities, a how-to piece that includes advice from a neighbor, a recipe, a profile of a resident and a compelling feature article.
Open each edition with a compelling feature article to prevent the newsletter from landing in the trash and build a loyal readership. "A newsletter must add value by informing the reader," says About My HOA, an organization designed to help HOA communities. Examples of opening features include news of a tax increase, a human interest story about a resident or an interview with a police officer about preventing burglaries. Factual accuracy is important.
Include neighborhood classifieds as a free public service. This makes a newsletter useful, informative and entertaining. Set a deadline by which people must give you their ads, consider a length limit and give your contact information.
Make announcements but set boundaries; announce births and weddings, which are matters of public record. But take care not to announce people's unhappy private developments, even if they are public record; you are writing a neighborhood newsletter, not a New York Times piece about a public figure. A divorce is an example of an unhappy event that could fuel speculation and gossip; announcing a death with the permission of the bereaved would be permissible.
Include a puzzle in each edition. People like puzzles, and including one might help you to build a readership. You can use a free puzzle-maker, such as Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker, to generate new puzzles without the worry of copyright infringement.
Ask the neighbors for article ideas, and consider giving a good writer a column. Examples of interesting column material includes movie, book and restaurant reviews, home decorating, cooking, gardening, sports and opinion pieces. The Office of Neighborhood Services for the City of Iowa City recommends getting neighbors involved in the writing so all the work doesn't fall to one person.
Decide whether you will allow letters to the editor. Many people love to read them, but they can take a lot of space. If you allow them, you'll also have to take on the responsibility of publishing some and not others, which could get touchy in a small community.
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