Leading voices in the media

Most newspapers' editorials are written by editorial writers, not reporters. These writers are part of the newspaper's "editorial board," usually made up of the editorial page editor, editorial writers with responsibility for specific issue areas, and other ranking members of the newspaper staff.

Editorial boards meet frequently with representatives of local organizations, elected officials, candidates, and anyone else they think might be able to inform them about issues that matter to their readers. The meetings generally last about an hour, and they are usually the occasion for a vigorous give-and-take between the editorial writers and their guests (and sometimes among the editorial writers themselves).

Newspapers rely on advocates to propose meetings. Here's how to proceed:

  • Step 1: Put together a group of three or four local afterschool advocates, including a representative of an afterschool program and perhaps a community-based organization leader, parent, and business leader who has partnered with an afterschool program.
  • Step 2: Write a brief letter to the editorial page editor of your local newspaper requesting a meeting and laying out what you'd like to discuss and why it is important and timely.
  • Step 3: Follow up your letter a day or two after it arrives with a telephone call to the editorial page editor. Be prepared with some suggested dates and times. Steer clear of afternoons, if possible, and Fridays altogether.
  • Step 4: If the editorial board agrees to meet, have a preparatory meeting with your group before the meeting at the newspaper. Practice answering questions and decide who will take the lead in answering questions about specific topics.
  • Step 5: At the meeting, each member of your group should be prepared to offer a three-minute opening summary of important points. Be sure each group member addresses a different aspect of the benefits of afterschool.
  • Step 6: Know your material and be ready to answer questions.
  • Step 7: Find out which editorial writer covers this issue; it may be obvious from the discussion. You may want to be back in touch with the writer in the future.
  • Step 8 Leave materials (fact sheets, information on your program, etc.) with the editorial board writers when you leave.
  • Step 9: Send a thank-you note after the meeting, highlighting key points you want to be sure editorial board members understood and addressing any questions you left unanswered.