Writing a Letter to the Editor

Writing a Letter to the Editor
about the For the People Act

 

We have a special opportunity to educate our communities and help build support for this landmark legislation! Writing a letter to the editor to share your knowledge and your convictions is one of the best things you can do to help support our democracy.

 

Guidelines for writing an effective letter to the editor

Here are some excellent (and very succinct!) suggestions from the Op-Ed Project for becoming a top-notch Op-Ed-style LTE writer. Follow these steps and it's easier than you think to write a clear, compelling letter! We've selected a few that might be of especial use for people new to the craft.

THE BASICS:

  1. The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good!
  2. Use Plain Language: Jargon serves a purpose, but it is rarely useful in public debate, and can obfuscate – sorry, I mean cloud – your argument. Speak to your reader in straight talk. 
  3. Respect Your Reader: Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence, or overestimate her level of information. Recognize that your average reader is not an expert in your topic, and that the onus is on you to capture her attention – and make the argument compel.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN WRITING:

  1. Can You Back Up What You Say?: Is your argument based on evidence – solid material and logical building blocks that will be acknowledged as credible even by those who may disagree with your interpretation? 
  2. So What?: Why should everyone else — including those of us who are not experts in your area — care?
  3. What's the difference between being "right" and being effective?: Does your language tend to write off the people who would disagree with you, or do you employ empathy and respect in the pursuit of changing minds?

STRUCTURE:

Word-count rules set by each news outlet will likely force you to take some shortcuts, but here's the dream structure!

  • Lede: A lede is what sets the scene and grabs your reader’s attention — it is your introduction. A news hook is what makes your piece timely, and often is part of the lede.
  • Thesis: Statement of argument — either explicit or implied
  • Argument: Based on evidence (such as stats, news, reports from credible organizations, expert quotes, scholarship, history, first-hand experience)

First Point
Second Point
Third Point

  • "To Be Sure" paragraph: In which you pre-empt your potential critics by acknowledging any flaws in your argument, and address any obvious counter-arguments. [In a short letter to the editor, this may be the first section to skip!]
  • Conclusion: Often circling back to your lede.

 

Sample letter

(Please use this just as an example. Different news outlets have different word-count requirements ... plus, editors won't appreciate getting the same letter from everyone!)

 

To The Editor:

NOW IS THE TIME FOR DEMOCRACY REFORM

My name is [FIRST AND LAST] and I live in [city, state]. We have just witnessed a previously

unimaginable assault on our democracy. We need democracy reform legislation now so we can

avoid this threat in the future. Congress must pass the For The People Act.

This legislation will put power back into the hands of American voters. Voting rights have been

under assault by state governments. There have been many bills introduced to make it more

difficult to vote. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy! The For the

People Act will safeguard and strengthen voting rights by restoring the Voting Rights Act

protections. It would also make voting easier and more accessible and protect against flawed

purges from voting rolls.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering is another threat to our democracy. The need for

redistricting reform is urgent. Extreme gerrymandering has reached levels unseen in the last 50

years. The For the People Act would ban partisan gerrymandering, enact uniform rules for

drawing districts and stronger protections for minority communities. The Act would also

require states to use independent commissions to draw district maps.

The For The People Act has already been introduced in Congress by both the House and the

Senate, signaling that this is a top priority. The time to enact democracy reform is now.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

 

 

Contact information for recommended media outlets

 

NJ.com/Advance Media (See Individual Local and Regional Affiliates)

The Star-Ledger

Welcomes letters from readers containing opinion. The limit is 200 words, and they should be e-mailed to [email protected].

Unsolicited guest columns (op-eds) are welcome as well, with a limit of 675 words. Submissions must be exclusive, and should be e-mailed to: [email protected]. No attachments, please.

OP-ED/ LTES Info

https://www.nj.com/opinion/2018/01/submit_an_op-ed.html

https://www.nj.com/njvoices/2012/10/news_and_opinion_in_the_star-l.html

The Jersey Journal

Contact: [email protected]

South Jersey Times/NJ.com/Advance Media

Contact: [email protected]

The Trenton Times

Contact: [email protected]

NorthJersey.com/USAToday/Gannet Media / The “Bergen” Record

(Includes the Montclair Times and the Nutley Sun)

Letters to the Editor: https://static.northjersey.com/submit-letter/

Contact us by phone, letter, or email.

BY MAIL: Your Views, The Record, 1 Garret Mountain Plaza, PO Box 471, Woodland Park, NJ 07424-0471

BY EMAIL: [email protected]

Call us (888) 282-3422

Address your comments to “Your Views.” Please include “letters” in subject field. No more than 250 words. Include your name, address, and daytime telephone number so we can verify your comments. Letters and articles may be edited and may be published, reproduced or distributed in print, electronic, or other forms.

Daily Record (Morris County)/USAToday/Gannett

Contact: [email protected] or https://static.dailyrecord.com/contactus-form/

Asbury Park Press

ONLINE FORM ONLY https://static.app.com/contactus-form/

The Press of Atlantic City

Contact: [email protected]

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and daytime and evening phone numbers. All letters are subject to editing. The shorter the letter, the more likely it will be published. Writers are limited to one letter every 30 days.

Guest columns / Citizen Columnists:

The Press invites readers to submit guest columns on local, regional, or state issues. Email your 750-word submissions to [email protected]pressofac.com.

MYCentralJersey.com/USAToday/Gannett

Home News Tribune /Courier News which cover local news in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties.

Contact: https://static.mycentraljersey.com/hntletters/

The Times of Trenton/NJ.Com/AdvanceMedia

Contact: [email protected]

The Trentonian/NJ.com/Advance Media

Contact: [email protected].

No word limit for LTE’s.

Tapinto.net

Contact: https://www.tapinto.net/pages/how-to-tap and https://www.tapinto.net/users/sign_in

Free to submit, published at editor's discretion. There is a PR paid option. But they are usually desperate for content so they usually approve within a few hours for the free version. You have to create a free account. You can submit generally specifying a particular town.

NJSpotlight/NJTV

Contact: https://www.njspotlight.com/about/editorial-submissions/

The Observer Online

For the communities of Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Belleville, Bloomfield and Nutley

Contact: Kevin Canessa — [email protected]

The (Bergen) Record

Contact:  [email protected] (also see above)

Please include “letters” in subject field / 250 words max. Include name, address & phone

The Star Ledger

Contact: [email protected] (also see above)

Include name, address & phone / 200 words max. They can be pretty strict about word count. 

West Orange Chronicle

Contact: [email protected]

Paper edition only. They don’t (yet) publish the letters on-line. 

John Willard has a sub and might be willing to check for LTEs.

They don’t always notify writers that their LTE is being published.

Verona-Cedar Grove Times

Contact: [email protected]

Include name, address & phone

Montclair Local

Contact: [email protected]

Include name, address & phone / no word count posted

As of recently they are only accepting LTEs on local issues.

The Item (Millburn, Short Hills)

Contact: [email protected]

Village Green (South Orange / Maplewood)

Contact: [email protected]

Include name, address & phone / no word count posted

Jersey Journal

Contact: [email protected]  (and see above)

Nutley-Belleville Patch

Contact: https://patch.com/new-jersey/belleville/posts

Nutley Sun

(part of NorthJersey.com; see above. Submit through online forms)

Morristown Green

Contact: https://morristowngreen.com/tag/letter-to-the-editor/

Contact: Kevin Coughlin, Editor at [email protected]

New Jersey Hills Media Group 

(17 weekly community newspapers and 15 online news sites circulate in New Jersey's "wealth belt": Somerset, Hunterdon, Morris and Essex counties)

Contact: Elizabeth Parker, Publisher & Executive Editor at [email protected]

Parsippany Focus

Contact: Frank Cahill, Editor [email protected]