Letters, letters, & more letters Op Eds LTE Writing Public officials
Opinion Pages • Among the most read sections of any publication • Decision makers (government, corporations, & nonprofits) are paying attention • One of the best ways to bring an issue to public attention
Public attention • Do you want it? • Are you sure? • Are we movie stars?—is any press good press?
What makes a good opinion piece • Depends on the kind: • Editorials (written by newspaper staff) • Letters to the editor: written by readers • Op-eds (Opposite the Editorials): written by people with some special expertise or credibility in a certain field
LTEs • Brief: 50-150 words • Timely: Generally comment on recent news • Special credentials help, but are not necessary
Op Eds: • Longer: 500-750 words • Should be timely— • either comment on recent news • or, introduce new ideas and perspectives • Credentials are more important • Well written, timely, & provocative • Concise • Hits hard (takes a clear position) • Vivid images, analogies, & arguments • Facts & emotions
Editors’ view of opinion section • Advocacy • Denunciations • Controversy • Astonishment • They want people to talk about what is in this section
Credentials: Expertise • Training and/or work • Personal experience
Timing • Is on the public radar—especially in thispublication • Something that is going on that should be in this publication • Find some way to tie into something timely—holiday, anniversary, pending government action, election, etc.
Writing the piece • Unfold quickly—introduction paragraph • Focus on issue—introduce the issue • Express your opinion • Be clear and confirmed in viewpoint • Body of piece • Back viewpoint with facts, research, and/or first hand knowledge • Conclusion • Clearly restate position • Offer a solution, if possible, go beyond criticism • Issue a call to action –what can the audience do
General Food for Thought • Timely & controversial— NOT outrageous • Use personal, conversational writing style • Educate without preaching • Provide a catchy title that emphasizes your central message • Who is your AUDIENCE?
More Food for Thought • Try to grab the reader's attention in the first line. End with a strong or thought- provoking line. • Come down hard on one side of the argument, and never equivocate. • Identify the counterargument, and refute it with facts. • Emphasize active verbs; go easy on adjectives and adverbs. • Avoid clichés. • Avoid technical jargon and acronyms • Use specific references and easy-to-understand data rather than abstraction. • Anecdotes, examples, and anologiescan sometimes help enhance understanding of an issue.
LTEs • All of the above applies • Just shorter—can’t develop the body • Make a single point • Pretty much the introduction and the conclusion of the Op Ed • Responding to recent news/opinion pieces—can assume audience familiarity
Writing Public Officials • Know why you are writing • What do you hope to gain? • Are you sure this is the right audience? • Is this part of a larger campaign? • Is there already a policy/action proposed that you want the officials to support? • Is this the beginning of a campaign?
More on Public officials • Address them with respect—if possible thank them for something • Be clear about your purpose • Make a clear “ask”-- be reasonable • Provide sound reasons— • Build off of existing beliefs, statements, etc. • Reference existing policies, etc. • Keep it as short as possible—one page is best • Don’t be apologetic • Thank them for their time
Change the discussion: • Refute the mistake—then point out that the denial is really a value claim hiding as a factual claim • Change the discussion to matters of value and policy—why might support for alternative energy be good no matter your climate stance; support a case for a climate bill that does not rely on stopping climate
Don’t be “the close-minded orthodoxy” conspiring to silence the opposition: • Acknowledge that debate is important to science • But . . . point out that in this case, the debate (which went on for years) has been decided • Dissenters (deniers) are a small group who have been and are heard. They have yet to offer a convincing case • Science is not a process of data collection that leads immediately to consensus
Describe the difference between journalism and science: • Journalism balances coverage to demonstrate objectivity (unbiased reporting) • he said/she said • Equal time • Science uses an objective method • To gather and evaluate evidence • To test hypotheses • To facilitate vigorous debate • To generate knowledge based on vigorous debate
Don’t let them assume the role of “disenfranchised underdog” • Point to the smoking gun memos—show how denial is a deliberate attempt to manipulate public opinion • Expose the links to fossil fuel funded think tanks • Remind readers of the “Tobacco Strategy” • Avoid reproducing “elitist rants against anyone foolish enough to doubt the reigning orthodoxy”