Action Center

Using the Media to Raise Awareness for Animal Protection

 

Dog with NewspaperBoth Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor are extremely effective and powerful ways for animal advocates to educate both the public and key policy makers on important animal protection issues. 

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor are a great and easy way to get your opinion widespread attention and educate the public on important issues. Letters to the editor respond to something previously published in the paper. The editorial page is one of the most widely read pages in the newspaper.They are shorter than op-eds, generally a few paragraphs instead of several hundred words.

Newspapers receive more letters than they can print, but don’t get discouraged.  Newspapers can be influenced by letters they don’t print, so keep writing.  Below are some hints to help you craft an effective letter to the editor.  You can also always ask for assistance, facts, or for someone to review it at advocacy@mspca.org.

  • Letters should refer to an article, editorial or other issue covered in the newspaper. Letter to the editors allow you to point out a misrepresentation or add another issue/fact. 
  • Not all readers of your letter will have read the original piece you are commenting on, so be sure to provide enough information where your letter is understandable without having to read the original article. However, be careful not to rehash the entire initial article you are responding to, doing so will take up your word count. This is particularly important if you are disagreeing with a premise; you don't want to rewrite your opponents whole argument. 
  • Check with the paper about word counts and submission policies.  Most newspapers allow 150-300 words maximum and post their policy online.  Make sure to adhere to these, including any requirements for your contact information.
  • Consider sending your letter to smaller local papers, not just the largest one.
  • Keep it short.  Not only are word limits imposed by the papers, but shorter letters are more likely to be read when printed.  It is much better for you to edit your letter and choose what to include and exclude, than to leave this up to the editor of the newspaper, who may take out your most salient points.
  • State your argument clearly and use accurate facts and pertinent data when possible.  Avoid personal attacks.  Also be sure to deliver your message and avoid rebutting opponents arguments.
  • Submit your letter shortly after the original piece is printed (if you're responding to a printed article) - the same day if possible! Faxing or emailing your letter is the best way to get your letter in quickly.
  • Once done, read it over putting yourself in the position of an average reader.  Having a friend who may not as familiar with the issue you are writing on read over your letter is also a great idea.
  • Be sure to include your contact information including a daytime telephone number as many editors prefer to call to confirm that you sent the letter before printing.
  • Read an example of a Letter to the Editor sent in by the MSPCA's Living with Wildlife Department

Op-Ed (Opinion-Editorial)

Op-eds are articles written by local citizens, experts, and leaders of organizations that appear opposite the editorial page of a national, state, or local newspaper. 

  • Op-eds should be timely and newsworthy. Bring up an issue that is current and is affecting people and animals as you are writing.
  • Your first paragraph should highlight the issue you are writing on and state your opinion on the issue.
  • Be sure to stay focused on the topic and your viewpoint, use an informative tone.
  • Op-eds should be written for a general audience and provide insight and educate the reader on the animal related issue.
  • State your argument clearly and use accurate facts and pertinent data when possible.  Avoid personal attacks. 
  • Check with the paper about word counts and submission policies.  Most newspapers have these policies online.  Make sure to adhere to these, including any requirements for your contact information. As a rule of thumb, include a cover letter with your name, phone number, address and a brief description of your qualifications/connections to the issue.
  • Once done, read it over putting yourself in the position of an average reader.  Having a friend who may not be as familiar with the issue read your op-ed is also a great idea.
  • Be sure to include your contact information including a daytime telephone number as many editors prefer to call to confirm that you sent the letter before printing.
  • Read an example of an Op-Ed (guest article) sent in by the MSPCA's Living with Wildlife Department Opinion Editorials
  • You can also always ask for assistance, facts, or for someone to review it at advocacy@mspca.org.

Massachusetts Newspapers

You likely already know which papers cover your area.  However, here are a few websites with listings of Massachusetts newspapers.  If you need help finding a local paper or deciding where to send a letter, contact advocacy@mspca.org

http://www.50states.com/news/mass.htm
http://www.masshome.com/news.html
http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/usstate/usmassac.htm