Physicians for Social Responsibility Advocacy Skills Training Series Advocacy Writing
Why submit an LTE or Op-Ed? • Influence the community and policy makers • Influence the newspaper (even if it’s not printed)
LTE or Op-Ed? • LTE-short in response to an article • Opposite Editorial 500-750 word article or viewpoint on a timely news topic
ABC’s of Letters to the Editor • About = refer to a recent article • Best bets: editorial, op-ed, or front page story • Cite headline, date and author • Brief = keep it short • Common limits are 100-250 words • Check the paper’s policy • Concise = get to the point fast • Just one point • Can the reader draw a clear conclusion
Fundamentals of LTE • State your issue • Build your case • Call to Action
State the Issue • Refer to the issue as reported in the newspaper, then say why you agree or disagree • OR: • Stating the situation as you see it • “Climate change is happening, it’s happening now, and it’s hurting our community.” • “Climate change is not just about polar bears any more. It’s harming our children’s health.”
Build your Case • 2) Build your case • Use your own voice as a health professional • Connect to local angle • Use emotion Photograph by: Spencer Platt, Getty Images Files
Call to Action • What can the reader do? • Be specific • Legislation, coal plant closure, etc • Praise or call out a legislator, corporation • If published send to target
Things to avoid • Don’t overstate/exaggerate • Don’t insult your opponents • Avoid jargon or acronyms • Never use all capital letters or bold text
“Rubens is Right” • Monday, October 7, 2013—Concord Monitor • “Shift from fossil fuels is under way” (Monitor editorial, Sept. 27): • The shift away from fossil fuels will occur at a much faster rate once Congress finally overcomes its dysfunction and begins to take climate change seriously. To that end, it’s great to see Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rubens come out in favor of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to limit carbon emissions and expand clean energy. If Sen. Jeanne Shaheen does the same, then an advocate of a wholly market-based solution to the climate crisis will represent New Hampshire in the Senate in 2015. That will be a win-win for New Hampshire, the country and the planet. • (Name, address, phone, title, email. 97 words)
Wall Street Journal LTE Critics of the IPCC report focus on one uncertainty (constant temperature) while ignoring other salient facts: The oceans have become about 30% more acidic in the past century as they absorb CO2. Plankton, the base of the ocean food chain, is 50% less than in the 1950s. Polar ice caps, which have an enormous influence on weather patterns (via Hadley cells), have shrunk dramatically since NASA started documenting them in 1979. In fact, polar temperatures have warmed by about eight to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice continues to thin and disappear. These are megatrends that don't bode well for people who depend on food from the oceans or live near the coast. The world'sdeserts are also growing as polar-influenced weather patterns shift rainfall away from the middle latitudes. I think we would be prudent to remember that Mother Nature bats last.
Overheated rhetoric on climate change doesn’t make for good policies Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively. Unfortunately, claims that distort the facts hinder the legitimate evaluation of policy options. The rhetoric has driven some policymakers toward costly regulations and policies that will harm hardworking American families and do little to decrease global carbon emissions. The Obama administration’s decision to delay, and possibly deny, the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example. The State Department has found that the pipeline will have minimal impact on the surrounding environment and no significant effect on the climate. Recent expert testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology confirms this finding. In fact, even if the pipeline is approved and is used at maximum capacity, the resulting increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be a mere 12 one-thousandths of 1 percent (0.012 percent). There is scant scientific or environmental justification for refusing to approve the pipeline, a project that the State Department has also found would generate more than 40,000 U.S. jobs. • Lamar Smith, a Republican, represents Texas’s 21st District in the U.S. House and is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Write your own LTE • IPCC came out with scientific statement that there is no doubt about the fact of climate change • LTE on recent flooding in Colorado • LTE on Obamacare
Op Ed American Geophysical Union
Examples of Ledes and News Hooks • Use the News • Tell a dramatic anecdote • Reference popular culture • Use wit and irony to point out a contradiction • Use an anniversary • Cite a major new study • Get personal
Activity • Write a Lede and news hook for a submission on climate change using one of the techniques we discussed
Well-written Op Eds • Take a position • Well-argued, original, new insight • Be persuasive • Concrete examples, metaphors and stories with emotion • Good hook • Initial paragraph engages the reader • Good tone- • Persuasive without condemnation • Acknowledges opposition while disagreeing
Op-Ed tips • Make a single point • Use short paragraphs • Avoid jargon • "Humanize" your article • Make a specific recommendation. • Draw the reader in, but get to the point. • End with a bang • Provide your contact information • Submit your op-ed via e-mail, as a rule. • Follow up.
Washington Post LTE guidelines • Prefer letters that are fewer than 200 words and take as their starting point a Post article • Receive more than 1000/week • Edited for clarity and fact checked but opinions are always the writer’s own • If you haven’t hear within 2 weeks it is safe to assume the letter wont be published
Example Opinion Editorial from PSR • The Courage to Act on Climate Change
Final Helpful Hints • Time sensitive -> submit by email • Use local connections! • Include: • Full name, credentials, home address, email, phone #, personal or financial interest • Subject to editing • Not more than one in 60 days • Unique submissions (not elsewhere)
How do people engage on Facebook? • 44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, with 29% doing so several times per day. • 31% comment on other people’s photos on a daily basis, with 15% doing so several times per day.
Tips for utilizing social media • Post things that are credible and interesting. • Don’t always post about your issue. • Vary the message between serious and inspiring • Follow ‘pages’ or groups/organization that you trust • Visuals are better than text • Ask for people to ‘like’ or ‘share’ your message/photo/video • Be concise • https://www.thunderclap.it/en