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Send a letter to the editor:     More Places to Write! 

HOW TO WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR AND MORE

Op-eds & Letters to the Editor

Op-ed columns and letters to the editor give you the opportunity to communicate directly to the public, including influential decision-makers, and shape or frame a debate in your own words.

Op-Ed Quick Tips

An op-ed is a column or guest essay published in the opinion section of a newspaper (Opposite the Editorial page). Most are between 500-750 words, and most outlets will take submissions by fax, e-mail or mail.
View
submission criteria for the top 100 newspapers.

Op-eds should be timely, lively and present strong arguments. Editors want readers to say, "Wow, did you see that piece today?" They are looking for an unusual or provocative opinion on a current issue, a call-to-arms on a neglected topic, bite and wit, or an expert take on an issue by a well-known name. Op-ed page editors are not looking for event announcements, promotional materials or generic ideas.

Determine your goal and audience. It could be starting a grassroots campaign, passing legislation, increasing funding, or educating the public on a crucial issue. Who could best help you in your goal? The general public? Teens? Seniors? Teachers? Nurses? Elected officials? Then, determine which news outlet can best deliver your op-ed to your targeted audience. Maybe it's a local weekly paper or a professional journal, a state newspaper or a competitive national paper like USA Today or The New York Times.

Figure out what you want to say and who can say it. Be able to summarize your point in a single, clear sentence. "By ratifying CEDAW, the U.S. can become a full partner in the effort to secure basic human rights of women and girls everywhere." Find a well-known person ‚€" your group's president, a political leader, an expert or clergy member ‚€" that can sign the column's byline.

Make your points compelling. The first sentence should grab the reader's attention, and everything that follows should keep it. Illustrate your case with vivid examples and memorable facts. Defend it with a few strong arguments. Be short and specific. Use a lively, active voice. Give readers the minimum background they need to understand your case. Don't bog them down with jargon or too many statistics. Mention your opponents' claims and dismantle them with common sense, past history, contradicting facts, moral outrage ‚€" whatever is needed.

Make it timely. Link your op-ed to a holiday or anniversary, a newly-released report, or any relevant upcoming event.

Make it short. Aim for a first draft of about 1,000 words. Go over what you've written. Eliminate unnecessary words, repetitious or stray ideas. Trim words, not ideas. Give the op-ed to a colleague and ask for suggestions and comments. Include those that make sense and edit it down to 750 words. Restate your key argument at the end.

Submit the piece. E-mail and/or fax are the cheapest and fastest methods. Include a short cover letter with your name and title, affiliation, address, e-mail, and day and evening phone numbers. Op-ed contact information at the top 100 newspapers are listed here.

Follow up and wait. Once it's been sent, don't call the newspaper or magazine repeatedly. If they're going to publish your piece, they'll call you. Be ready to make updates and revisions just before publication, especially if several weeks have passed since you submitted it.

Don't be discouraged. If your op-ed is rejected, don't be discouraged. Newspapers and magazines receive a huge volume of submissions, all competing for space on the page. Send your op-ed to another news outlet. Keep writing and submitting pieces. Often, it is just a matter of your op-ed being at the right place at the right time.

Leverage your success. If your piece does get published, send copies to funders, board members, reporters, elected officials, colleagues and other allies. An op-ed can serve as a springboard to talk-show appearances, panel discussions and a host of other opportunities.

Letters to the Editor Quick Tips

Letters to the editor allow you to offer a short rebuttal to an article or commentary, or add a crucial missing perspective. Most letters should be 150-250 words. Specific guidelines by news outlet are listed here.

Keep it short. Respond quickly to the article you've read (note the headline and date it ran). Make your points short and specific. It's better that you edit your words than the outlet cut what you consider to be your key point.

Be factual but not dull. State important facts that back up your point. Humor helps.

Pick a messenger. Find a well-known person to sign the byline. Identify the author's expertise and/or affiliation. Include full contact information and day and evening phone numbers.

Timing is everything. Because of the volume of submissions at national newspapers, getting in a letter the same day will increase your chances of getting published. Send it by e-mail in the body of the text, not as an attachment.

Use alternate forums to respond. Many media outlets have online reader forums and interactive online discussions with reporters. Some news magazine shows encourage viewers to respond while a show is on air, and then read selected e-mails in real time. These e-mails should be short, clear and punchy ‚€" only a few sentences will be used.

How to Write A Letter to the Editor

Letters should be short and concise, typically 150 words, or about three short paragraphs. For a news magazine or a radio news show, they should be even shorter, about 100 words. Letters should be written with passion, using strong but not strident language.

Be sure to consult guidelines before writing a letter to any news outlet. Most newspapers will post guidelines on their Web site on the same page as the letters to the editor or in the "contact us" section. At least once a week, newspapers will print guidelines on the editorial page for submitting a letter to the editor. If you are not able to find the guidelines in print or online, you can simply call your paper's editorial desk to request guidelines.

Small-circulation newspapers usually print most of the letters that they receive. It is more challenging to get a letter printed in major metropolitan newspapers, as they receive a much larger number of letters. However, if you can tie your letter to a recent article, editorial or column, you will greatly increase your chances of being published.

In addition to submitting letters to your local daily newspaper, consider other newspapers in your area. Most major metropolitan areas have free weekly community newspapers that go to tens or hundreds of thousands of homes. Consider sending letters to religious publications, both national and regional; your message could reach thousands of church people who may never have heard of an Offering of Letters. You may submit letters to Hispanic and African-American newspapers, which are often interested in issues which affect Africa, Latin America and low-income people in the United States. Finally, you can send letters to national newspapers, magazines and radio programs.

When submitting a letter to the editor by regular mail or fax, don't forget to sign it, as many newspapers will not publish a letter without a signature (letters sent by e-mail obviously cannot be signed). Also include a daytime telephone number in case the newspaper wants to verify that you are the author. Bear in mind that it may take a week or more from the time a newspaper receives a letter before it gets published. Weekly papers and news magazines take even longer.

With a little practice, writing good letters to the editor is neither time-consuming nor difficult. Your own letter will be more effective if it is not copied from a sample letter or media alert, because it comes directly from the heart. No other form of communication can match the impact of a thoughtful letter written by a concerned community citizen.

How to submit an op-ed

An op-ed is an opinion piece usually published opposite the editorial page, hence its name. Op-eds are frequently written by columnists, public officials or heads of organizations. However, anyone can submit an op-ed.

Before writing an op-ed, check the Web site or call your local newspaper and ask for the name of the op-ed editor (verify that you have the correct spelling) and guidelines for submission. Your op-ed should be longer than a letter to the editor; 750 words is usually a good length. Be sure to type it double-spaced.

After you have written the op-ed, submit it along with a cover letter addressed to the op-ed page editor. Follow up with a phone call a few days later to confirm that he/she received it and to ask if it will be published. Be sure to submit the piece at least two weeks prior to the time you want it to appear because space for op-eds is often planned in advance.

It takes a little longer to write an op-ed than a letter to the editor, but the extra effort is worth it. Op-eds are more widely read by policy-makers than letters to the editor, and they are much more influential.

Bread for the World's Grassroots Media Associate Shawnda Hines is here to help you. Don't hesitate to send her an email!

EPIC: A format for powerful writing

"EPIC" is a format you can use to develop a well-written opinion piece. Use EPIC to organize your ideas and clarify your message. This format makes opinion-writing much easier and less time-consuming. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to figure out where to begin, you may try using the EPIC outline, and your letter to the editor or op-ed will almost write itself!

Engage:  Engage the reader with a startling fact, a visceral image or a strong statement of a serious problem.

Propose:  Make a specific proposal regarding the Offering of Letters or a piece of legislation.

Illustrate:  Illustrate how the proposal would work and why it's important. Give a few details or examples to make it concrete.

Call to action, or Commitment: Call on your legislators and/or readers to take a specific action or express your commitment to alleviating hunger.

"Engage" grabs the reader's attention. "Propose" makes it clear what you are advocating for. "Illustrate" fleshes out your solution and gives reasons why it's a good idea. "Call to action" ends your piece with a request, or "commitment" ends your piece with an inspiring statement of your vision.


Sample EPIC Letter to the Editor

Engage: Half the world's population lives on less than $2 per day, yet less than half of one percent of our federal budget is dedicated to helping people in poor countries.

Propose: An increase of only one percent of our nation's vast resources could make a huge difference.

Illustrate: For only one percent, we could prevent 10 million children becoming AIDS orphans. We could provide water to 900 million people around the globe. We could save almost 6.5 million children under 5 from dying of diseases that could be prevented with low-cost measures like vaccinations.The world is waiting for its most powerful nation to take the lead in building a better, safer world for all of us.

Call to action: If you want to make a difference, let Senators Byrd and Rockefeller and Representative Mollohan know that dedicating more of our resources to poverty-focused aid is your priority and should be theirs, too.

Guidelines for e-mailing a letter to the editor

Send letters as text only. Do not use attachments.  

Be sure to include your daytime telephone number and your "snail-mail" address.

Do not cc: your letter to Bread for the World or any other organization or individual. If you want someone else to see your letter, copy the letter into a separate e-mail.

If you are submitting your letter to more than one newspaper, send your letter to each newspaper one at a time. Do not type more than one e-mail address in the recipient field. Do not create a distribution list of newspaper e-mail addresses.

Multiple submissions of the same letter to the editor are acceptable only for local newspapers. For national newspapers, each letter you submit must be unique.

Do not send the same letter to two newspapers in the same city.

Write your own original letter. Do not simply copy from a BFW alert. Keep it real! Your own voice is much more compelling than a canned message. Otherwise, newspapers may receive the exact same letter from two different BFW media activists. It is okay for a newspaper to receive letters from two different people on the same subject ‚€" as long as the letters are not identical.

If you get published

If you get published, SHARE the news! It inspires people to use their voices as well. Email or send a copy of your letter or op-ed to OBAMA BLOGS.  
 
Maximize the political impact of your letter by sending it to your Senator or Representative. Members of Congress subscribe to local newspapers in their districts. If your letter or op-ed mentions your legislators by name, it is likely that they will see it. However, you should still mail or fax them a copy, along with a brief cover letter, to reinforce your message.

Read examples of published Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor written by OBAMA BLOG members and media activists

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Key Points for Success

By Carol W. LaGrasse

Introduction:

Letters to the editor are known as "guerilla publicity," because they cost nothing. Their importance cannot be underestimated. The "Letters" column is one of the first areas that newspaper readers turn to. Not only do ordinary citizens avidly read the Letters column for news and opinions about matters of current importance, but, in addition, representatives from the districts reached by the newspaper assign staff to monitor and clip the letters. The representatives themselves focus on the letters of importance to them, often paying attention to them to the same degree that they would a letter penned directly to their official office, and more so.

Successful Letters:

1. Focus

Each letter should cover one issue succinctly and not stray from the point.

2. Ease of Publication

· Carefully edit and type the letter (no-handwritten letters to the editor).
· Editors sometimes are forced to reject letters, even though they are inclined to be sympathetic with them, because of the difficulty that their letters editor will have in deciphering the handwriting.

3. Letter Format

· Place your full name, address and the date at the top of the letter

Include your telephone number for verification

· Address the letter itself to:

Letters to the Editor
Name of Newspaper
Full Address of Newspaper

Dear Editor:

· At the end of the letter, sign it and type your name below the signature.

4. Letter Style

· Write clearly. Develop your theme so that an individual who is not familiar with your issue will understand the point you want to make.

· If you are writing in response to an earlier article, get the letter in quickly and make a clear reference to the preceding article near the beginning of your letter.

· Length

Keep the letter within the length limitations set by the newspaper to which you are writing. This is the most common error of citizens‚€™ letters. Just be cold-blooded about keeping your letter short enough; it‚€™s a lot less effort than editing it later after telephoning the newspaper to find out where your letter is.

If you have the ability and expertise, and your submission might be of interest to the newspaper, you might try your hand at an Op Ed piece for the Editorial Page. An Op Ed may reach as high as 700 to 800 words, or longer.

· Know your facts and be accurate.

· Do not slander individuals, including government officials. In fact, avoid negatively using the names of individuals who are not government officials.

· A succinct quotation from a historic figure or a classical literary figure is often effective to hone your point. However, a letter dominated by references to the scriptures will often cause your letter to be rejected.

¬∑ To make your writing interesting, try sometimes using an unusual angle or hook to draw the reader into your letter. But don‚€™t get way-laid.

5. How to Send

Create a media list with addresses, fax numbers, and/or e-mail addresses.

Choices of how to send the letter include all options:
· Regular mail
· Fax
¬∑ E-mail: Many newspapers will ask whether you can send the letter electronically, even if you have already mailed or faxed it. (Do not send ‚€œattachments.‚€Ě)
· Hand delivery

6. Use the letter again afterwards

Enclose a copy of the letter to the editor with your next letters to your members of the legislature. As a general practice, think of as many uses as possible for all the material that you have published, of whatever nature.

Identical Letters to Multiple Newspapers

1. With the aid of a computer and a handwritten list of names and addresses of newspapers, you can easily send an individually addressed letter to each of the editors of 10 - 15 dailies and weeklies in the region, and, if you computerize the names and addresses, to many more throughout the entire state, if appropriate.

2. Even identical letters should be individually addressed, and, of course, signed.

3. Where Newspapers Require Unique Letters

If you write the same letter to every newspaper in the vicinity, realize that some have the policy to solely publish unique letters. Comply with this policy for those newspapers. If they inquire whether a common letter is unique, be honest and offer to send them a letter that is individually composed about your important issue.

A Campaign of Letters to the Editor

· If desirable, get a number of individuals to write their own letters to the editor about your issue.

¬∑ Don‚€™t send multiple, identical letters to the editor signed by different people.

· Continue the letters over a period of time, if necessary.

· If you hold a letter-writing meeting, be realistic that these seldom produce many letters during the meeting, especially for letters to the editor. Sometimes a group is more successful at such a meeting producing letters to a member of the legislature. Bring paper, stamps, and envelopes, in any case, and temporarily set aside the standard of typewriting the letters. However, some more letters may result later.

Special Uses of Letters to the Editor

1. The Open Letter to the Editor

· Some newspapers will publish an pen letter to the editor, which is really a letter to a member of the legislator (and so stated), or the like, written for publication.

· After the letter is published, be sure to send copies to the legislators you would like to influence.

2. A Publicity Letter

· An effective device is a letter to the editor letting people know when your big meeting is going to be held.

· Although newspapers will not allow their Letters column to be used for publicity announcements, sometimes, if people send concise letters on issues and include the date, time, and place of their big meeting, the letters will be published in full.

3. Letters Giving Public Recognition

A very useful little essay is the letter to the editor expressing public appreciation or recognition to an individual, especially a public official, for something that person has done to advance the cause of private property rights, including your particular issue.

Special Forms of Letters to the Editor

1. Ghostwritten letters

You may ghostwrite letters at times for individuals who, because of time limitations or weak letter-writing ability, cannot do their own letters. Make sure that they personally read, sign, and mail them. Don‚€™t forget that newspapers usually telephone to verify the authorship.

2. Co-signed letters

Co-signing can attach a level of weight and prestige to the letter. In addition, the problem may arise that a local newspaper will not publish a letter from someone from outside of the readership area. Co-signing the letter with a local person, perhaps with his organizational affiliation, may solve this problem.

Your Theme

No matter what issue or topic you write about, never lose track of your theme of support for BARACK OBAMA and why.. This theme should be both implicit and explicit, wherever possible, in each letter to the editor.

Media Contact List

Network/Cable Television

ABC News
77 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-456-7777
General e-mail:
netaudr@abc.com

Nightline: nightline@abcnews.com
20/20:
2020@abc.com

CBS News
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-975-1893

Email forms for all CBS news programs

CBS Evening News: evening@cbsnews.com
The Early Show:
earlyshow@cbs.com
60 Minutes II:
60II@cbsnews.com
48 Hours:
48hours@cbsnews.com
Face The Nation:
ftn@cbsnews.com

CNN
One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta, GA 30303-5366
Phone: 404-827-1500
Fax: 404-827-1906
Email forms for all CNN news programs

Fox News Channel
1211 Ave. of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 301-3000
Fax: (212) 301-4229
comments@foxnews.com

List of Email addresses for all Fox News Channel programs

Special Report with Brit Hume: Special@foxnews.com
FOX Report with Shepard Smith:
Foxreport@foxnews.com
The O'Reilly Factor:
Oreilly@foxnews.com
Hannity & Colmes:
Hannity@foxnews.com, Colmes@foxnews.com
On the Record with Greta:
Ontherecord@foxnews.com

NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-4444
Fax: 212-664-4426

List of Email addresses for all NBC news programs

NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw: nightly@nbc.com
NBC News' Today:
today@nbc.com
Dateline NBC:
dateline@nbc.com

MSNBC
One MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Phone: (201) 583-5000
Fax: (201) 583-5453

CNBC
2200 Fletcher Ave.
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Phone: (201) 585-2622
Fax: (201) 583-5453

List of Email addresses for all MSNBC news programs

Hardball with Chris Matthews: hardball@msnbc.com
MSNBC Reports with Joe Scarborough:
msnbcreports@msnbc.com

 

PBS
1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-739-5000
Fax: 703-739-8458

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: newshour@pbs.org


National Radio Programs

National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001-3753
Phone: 202-513-2000
Fax: 202-513-3329
E-mail: Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman
ombudsman@npr.org

All Things Considered: atc@npr.org
Morning Edition:
morning@npr.org
Talk Of The Nation:
totn@npr.org

List of Email addresses for all NPR news programs

The Rush Limbaugh Show
1270 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
Phone: 800-282-2882
Fax: 212-563-9166
E-mail:
rush@eibnet.com

Sean Hannity Show
E-mail: Phil Boyce, Program Director
phil.boyce@abc.com


National Newspapers

The Los Angeles Times
202 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 800-528-4637 or 213-237-5000
Fax: 213-237-4712

Letters to the Editor: letters@latimes.com
Readers' Representative:
readers.rep@latimes.com

L.A. Times Contact Information by Department


The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-556-1234
Fax: 212-556-3690
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-862-0300

Letters to the Editor (for publication): letters@nytimes.com
Write to the news editors:
nytnews@nytimes.com

New York Times Contact Information by Department
How to
Contact New York Times Reporters and Editors

USA Today
7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108
Phone: 800-872-0001 or 703-854-3400
Fax: 703-854-2165

Letters to the Editor: editor@usatoday.com

Give feedback to USA Today

The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty St., New York, NY 10281
Phone: 212-416-2000
Fax: 212-416-2658

Letters to the Editor: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com
Comment on News Articles:
wsjcontact@dowjones.com


The Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071
Phone: 202-334-6000
Fax: 202-334-5269

Letters to the Editor: letters@washpost.com
Ombudsman:
ombudsman@washpost.com

Contact Washington Post Writers and Editors


Magazines

Newsweek
251 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-445-4000
Fax: 212-445-5068

Letters to the Editor: letters@newsweek.com


Time
Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020
Phone: 212-522-1212
Fax: 212-522-0323

Letters to the Editor letters@time.com


U.S. News & World Report
1050 Thomas Jefferson St., Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-955-2000
Fax: 202-955-2049

Letters to the Editor letters@usnews.com

News Services / Wires

Associated Press
50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020
Phone: 212-621-1500
Fax: 212-621-7523

General Questions and Comments: info@ap.org

Partial Contact Information for the Associated Press by Department and Bureau

Reuters
Three Times Square
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 646-223-4000

Reuters Editorial Feedback

United Press International
1510 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone: 202.898.8000
FAX: 202.898.8057

Comment and Tips: tips@upi.com

Some news magazine shows encourage viewers to respond while a show is on air, and then read selected e-mails in real time. These e-mails should be short, clear and punchy ‚€" only a few sentences will be used.

 

Communications Plan Quick Tips

Developing a communications plan is essential to clarify priorities, target audiences, identify resources and make day-to-day assignments. Your communications plan should be clearly written, easy-to-read, updated regularly, and supported by staff and board members.

Laying the Groundwork

¬∑         Create Goals . Make them specific and measurable. If you want to attract new members, say how many. Other goals might be: to change attitudes on your issues or increase support for certain policies. Make sure your communications goals reinforce your group's core vision and values, as expressed in the mission statement.

¬∑         Identify Target Audiences. Whom do you need to reach in order to achieve your goals: Journalists? Elected officials? Identify ways to reach each group. What do they read, watch on TV or listen to on the radio? Get audience data from media outlets, including marketing information for advertisers. Develop a profile for each group, along with media activities aimed at them.

¬∑         Research Media and Public Opinion. Conduct a media analysis of your group and its issues. Which outlets cover your issues? Are the stories positive, negative or neutral? What public opinion polls have been done on relevant topics? Is there a misperception or lack of awareness? An opportunity for action? Determine what areas need attention.

¬∑         Develop a Message. Create a short phrase that you want reporters to use every time they describe your issue and use it each time you talk with them (for example, "International family planning saves women's lives by..."). Develop three or four short "message points" for spokespeople to use when talking to the press. Include basic facts about your issues/group and draw from public opinion data any messages that resonate with your target audiences. Review the message points before media appearances or interviews. No matter what questions are asked, all answers should include the key points.

¬∑         Produce Background Materials. Your group's media "tool box" should include the following: a well-designed logo and stationery; a one-page fact sheet describing your group; a more detailed brochure; short bios of spokespeople; relevant news clippings, studies or reports. Your group should also have a well-designed, easy-to-use Web site. Your materials should be neither too slick, nor too amateurish. Strive for respectability and good taste.

¬∑         Itemize Resources. Determine what resources you'll need to carry out your communications plan, including press lists. Be specific in terms of staff, budget, equipment, consultants and volunteers. Develop a realistic budget that includes staff time, as well as outside services (graphic design, Web management, media training, etc.).

Developing a Plan

¬∑         Devise a Strategy for Positive Media Coverage. Develop a calendar of media events to highlight your group's projects, such as the release of a report, timed with ready-made news hooks like International Women's Day. Include info. on which reporters you will target. Cultivate relationships with members of the press, suggesting ideas for feature stories, "expert" responses to breaking news or guests for their shows. Write and submit

 

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