Write an opinion piece and submit it to your local newspaper
First, why try?
Expressing your opinions in local publications is a powerful way to deliver messages to important audiences. The value of that coverage can’t be underestimated. Your letter to the editor (LTE) or editorial can educate someone new to the issue, generate discussion in your community, and spur someone else to take action. It’s nearly certain your legislators will see letters and editorials (they voraciously scan local papers and websites).
Okay, what do I write?
The easiest is to submit a LTE to your local paper, whether that’s a daily or weekly publication. Keep letters short and to the point. If you can’t say it in less than 250 words, submit a longer opinion piece – often referred to as an editorial, OpEd, or column. Don’t go over 400 words, even in longer pieces. There’s just not enough space for newspapers to print longer pieces.
How do I do this?
Look at the editorial or opinion page in your local paper or online. There you’ll find submission guidelines for the page. There will likely to be a word count for both letters to the editor (LTEs) and editorials. Scan the current articles, too, to see what has been successfully published. Pay close attention to deadlines. Submitting a letter just before a deadline will lessen the chances of it making it in. Don’t know the deadline? Just give them a call or send an email to ask.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when writing your opinion piece:
- Write a strong opening statement that’s short and to the point – your first sentence should grab the reader. Most editors will only read through the first couple of sentences to decide whether a piece is worth putting in the publication.
- Your piece should speak to current events or something happening now. Don’t make it too broad or general.
- Stick to the point (don’t go off on tangents) and defend your position with two main arguments. Make sure these are clearly defined.
- End on a strong note. Appeal to the readers’ highest values.
- Do not use rhetorical questions.
- Keep your op-ed under 400 words or if you write a letter to the editor, keep it under 200 words.
Once you’ve written your letter it’s best to email it directly to the editor or the editor of the opinion section. Just cut and paste the letter right into the body of the email. No need to send a document attachment. The less clicks it takes for the editor, the better.
Usually in smaller papers the editor is best because they're doing four or five jobs at once. A larger daily will have a dedicated editor for the page. You can find their emails online, or just call and let them know you’d like to submit a letter.
Use this sample letter to the editor (LTE) as a guide.
The Wisconsin legislature recently proposed a package of bills that would be incredibly damaging to the voting rights of Wisconsin residents.
Rather than ensuring all residents have fair access to the ballot, a handful of our legislators are writing bills that, among other things, make it harder for individuals to vote (especially voters with disabilities, voters from Black and brown communities, and elderly voters), threaten individuals including volunteers and clerks with prosecution for violating the new barriers outlined in the bills, and forbid workers in residential care facilities and retirement homes from even encouraging residents to vote.
These legislators are unwilling to work with nonpartisan organizations like those in the Wisconsin Voting Rights Coalition that are proposing solutions that would benefit those on both sides of the aisle. Partner organizations in the coalition are offering tools to implement automatic voter registration, expand access to the Department of Motor Vehicles, protect early voting and other initiatives.
It is urgent that your readers understand the threats this package of anti-voter bills have on their freedoms to vote.
The Wisconsin Conservation Voters team is here to help.
Contact our Communications Director Ryan Billingham at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Communications Manager Erin Bloodgood at email@example.com for additional help and guidance. They would also be happy to help with editing and submitting your letter.