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Getting Your Opinion on the Opinion Page


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A resource for activists and advocates to write, send off, and get published letters to the editor of local news and media.

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Getting Your Opinion on the Opinion Page

  1. 1. GettingYourOpinion on theOpinion Page January 2016
  2. 2. The opinion page is called the “debate society that never adjourns.”
  3. 3. Why LTEs? • The opinion page of the newspaper is one of the most widely read. • Coverage can be challenging to secure, but this is content you control! • Many lawmakers pay close attention to what people are saying in their local papers. • The letter to the editor format is short. • It allows you to have a say on the big discussions of the day in your community and to reach and influence a diverse group of people.
  4. 4. Tips for Writing a Strong Letter and Getting It Published
  5. 5. Know the rules and where to send it. Many newspapers have strict limits on the length of letters due to their limited space to publish them, so make sure you know the rules and keep within the limit. Also, make sure to include your contact information for verification.
  6. 6. What’s your hook? Just like a good headline, you want an interesting subject or title for your letter. Many papers will include them when they publish and this can help get the attention of the editor.
  7. 7. Open your letter with a strong statement. The statement might point out an error or misrepresentation in an article, disagree with an editorial position, or add to the discussion by pointing out something readers need to know. If the issue is new to readers, what is the big thing you want people to know?
  8. 8. Focus on one subject or event. Keeping your letter brief will help make sure that your important points are not cut out by the editor and that people understand the points you are trying to get across.
  9. 9. Think about referencing the newspaper. While some papers print general commentary, many are more likely to print letters that refer to a specific article or topic that they have covered. Think about referring to an article on a related topic in the first part of your letter or in the submission.
  10. 10. Be accurate and compelling . If you have facts or statistics to back up your point, include them but make sure not to just rely on numbers or studies. Make sure people understand why the numbers matter and what they mean to real people.
  11. 11. Include a call to action. What is the point of writing this letter? What do you want people to know or do or understand?
  12. 12. What’s in the letter? Basic Format: • Subject – what is this about? • Hook – why should people care? • Strong opening paragraph. • 1-2 paragraphs to provide information about impact and key facts. • Closing with a call to action. ALSO: • Avoid jargon – keep it straightforward. • What are your “sound bites”?
  13. 13. Subject: Put Families First (Word Count: 198) Dear Editor, Threatening a new mom with jail time does not help improve her life, the life of her family or the public health of our communities. Addiction is not a choice. It is not something to be judged or demonized. It is a health issue. The Pregnancy Criminalization Act is an out of touch and cruel way of addressing the very real problem of addiction in Tennessee. Punitive measures like this one have proven to be ineffective time and again, and yet our state chooses to waste our limited tax dollars locking up mothers instead of making their healthcare needs its top priority. Only this type of support ensures successful outcomes for mothers and their children. It is clear to me that this law puts politics ahead of the needs of families in our state. Estimated costs of treatment programs are a mere fraction of the costs to incarcerate mothers and avoids the very real and likely human costs of tearing families apart. Putting mothers behind bars is not the solution. We need to support all people struggling with addiction with the information and treatment programs they need to be well and be present with and for their families. Sincerely, Name, Address
  14. 14. Send letters to variety of papers. The smaller the newspaper's circulation, the more likely it is that your letter will be printed. Just don’t send the exact same letter to more than one paper. US Newspaper List
  15. 15. Follow-up and make your case. Some papers get hundreds of letters per day and many of them may be on the same topic. Call the newspaper and ask for the opinion editor. Make sure they received your letter and make a quick pitch on why yours should be published. “I sent in a letter this morning emphasizing the fact that abortion clinics in Tennessee are already well regulated, which included information about the standards that are already in place. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I hope you will publish my letter. Thank you.”
  16. 16. If at first you don’t succeed… The fact is that your letters will not always be published and they may have a limit on how often one person can have a letter printed. Make sure you are following the rules. Keep on submitting and calling. If you have a publication that you continue to send pieces into that never runs them, think about calling that editor. Introduce yourself. If you are in their community or circulation area, let them know. Ask them if there are certain things they look for in a letter or if they have any tips.
  17. 17. What are your other options? You have something to say – what about a post on social media or a blog post? If you can’t fit your thoughts into the word limit, think about an editorial.
  18. 18. Did you get your letter printed? You worked to get the issue out there – share it. Post your letter on social media, share it with friends and encourage them to share it and to write their own!
  19. 19. Make it Timely. Follow the Rules. Make your Voice Heard. We have an opportunity right now! We need to get letters out to build support for our legislative agenda and ramp up attention on the pregnancy criminalization law. Are you in? We will send around a toolkit tomorrow with sample letters. We hope you will consider writing a letter(s) and using the information you learned tonight to help us to urge Tennessee lawmakers to advance policies that support women and families.
  20. 20. AllisonGlass,KatieGarcia,DanaAsbury @healthyfreetn MorganMeneses-Sheets @morgmeneshets @SteadfastComms