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Lobbying the Media
Letters to the Editor:
Letters to the editor (LTE) are a great way to get your message out to others in your community. Editors and reporters may also look to letters to the editor for ideas and issues that they have not previously covered. The LTE should be clear, brief, and focused. Limit the letter to one page. Remember that shorter letters have a better chance of being published.
LTE campaigns are effective in generating many letters that deal with the same issue. They also serve to address particular news items or editorials that have appeared in the publication. To start a LTE campaign, you should form a LTE committee in your group. Stagger the mailings, a few days apart to address a particular issue.
LTE can be useful in several ways: To respond to an editorial or another letter to the editor, to comment on a recent event, or even to build support for your issue. It is a fantastic way to reach tens of thousands of readers while investing limited time.
In addition to letters to the editor, newspapers run opinion columns on either the editorial or Op-Ed pages, or frequently both. The term "Op-Ed" is shorthand for "Opposite Editorial." Op-Eds are also referred to as "opinion pieces." Op-Eds are written by guest writers (most of whom, unfortunately, are syndicated columnists and not local citizens.)
An Op-Ed should not be confused with an editorial. The editor, or the editorial board, of a newspaper writes editorials. You will notice that editorials are rarely signed, as they represent the point of view of the newspaper as a whole.
Key Points for Discussion:
A. Limit your piece to 500-800 words total. Shorter pieces are more likely to be published and read by the general public.
B. Research news articles on the subject before writing. The research has to come first.
C. Mix the human-interest perspective with hard facts and statistics. Give your story a human face backed by solid research.
D. Indignation is good. Readers like to see passion in a piece. Indignation accomplishes two key goals. First, people are rarely moved to action without the push of one of the emotional buttons (anger and hope). Second, indignation in a piece suggests to the reader that the writer is sincere and independent, not likely beholden to the special interests who value the word "moderate" above all else. A word of caution! Indignation should not be confused with ranting or lack of civility. Always think of yourself as a professional.
E. The first paragraph, and especially the first sentence, should be directly tied to recent news.
F. The second paragraph should focus on a recommendation. If writing about a bill, the second paragraph might start, "Congress should take this historic opportunity to address..." G. The rest of the piece should contain further explanation of the problem that you are addressing, your proposed solutions and the players involved. Make sure to follow the recommendations in section "C" above.
H. The conclusion should be pithy and memorable. It should cause the reader to ponder all that you have written and it should drive home your central point.
I. Lastly. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Rewrite until you feel that the piece is both punchy and flowing. Ask family and friends for editorial help.
J. Call the Op-Ed editor before you submit your piece. Tell the editor what you are thinking about writing and solicit her/his comments. Ask if they are open to running it. A couple of good things can happen from these pre-submission phone calls. First, the editor might steer you in a better direction than you had first thought of, [“Well, if you're writing about X, why don't you try starting it with.