Both Opinion-Editorials (op-eds) and Letters to the Editor (LTEs) in newspapers and other media outlets are extremely effective and powerful ways for animal advocates to educate both the public and key policy makers on important animal protection issues. The editorial page is one of the most widely read pages in the newspaper. Media outlets typically receive more letters than they can print, but don’t get discouraged. The outlets 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 or op-ed. You can also always ask for assistance, facts, or for someone to review it at email@example.com.
Below is a recording of our Using Media to Advocate for Animals Training with communications expert, Alex Goldstein. Alex is the CEO and founder of communications and media relations company, 90 West. Watch the video to learn his tips and strategies for writing LTEs and Op-Eds, and how you can use the media to further your cause.
Letters to the editor (LTEs) are a great and easy way to share your opinion widely and educate the public on important issues.
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- LTEs should be timely and newsworthy. They can either be written in response to an article or a longer opinion piece (such as an op-ed; see below), or you can be the first to bring up a new issue. (Perhaps, for example, there’s never been an LTE about Massachusetts’ role in the illegal ivory trade before!)
- Check with the paper about word counts and submission policies. Most newspapers allow 150-300 words maximum and post this information online. If you can’t find online, email or call the paper.
- 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.
- Consider sending your letter to smaller local papers, not just the largest one.
- 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 just rebutting opponents’ arguments.
- 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 over your letter is also a great idea.
- Be sure to include your contact information including a daytime telephone number as many editors like to call to confirm that you sent the letter before printing.
- For an example, read a letter to the editor written by citizen advocate Martha Sanders on elephant rides at the Topsfield Fair.
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. They are typically longer, and sometimes more substantive, than letters to the editor.
- Op-eds should be timely and newsworthy. Bring up an issue that is current and is affecting people and animals.
- 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 and to 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 note 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..
- Read an example of an op-ed submitted by the MSPCA on the topic of coyote killing contests.
- You can also always ask for assistance, facts, or for someone to review it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.