How to get your letter-to-the-editor or opinion column published in local media

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 450 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 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.

Editors and reporters are more likely to pick up letters and columns that address specific, timely content, particularly on issues that have local implications. So, rather than write a letter about, say, the dirty business of mining in general it is better to write how mining will affect your hometown or favorite river or children and grandchildren.

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.

Wisconsin Conservation Voters can help. Contact our Communications Director Ryan Billingham at ryan@conservationvoters.org for additional help and guidance. He’d also be happy to help with editing and submitting your letter.