Letters to the Editor
Sending a Letter to the Editor is a great way to disseminate your message to a wide audience and one of the easiest ways to get published.
In many cases, letters are your best shot at getting published, if only because newspapers print more letters than editorials each day. Letters to the Editor are widely read and well worth submitting. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing a Letter to the Editor:
- Letters to the Editor pages differ from newspaper to newspaper. You will need to take a look at your own newspaper to get a feel for what they do and do not publish.
- If the paper writes reports on anything related to afterschool or education, use that article as a starting point for your own editorial; the paper is more likely to print a Letter to the Editor if it responds to its own coverage. See Appendix 1 for sample Letters to the Editor.
- Though most Letters to the Editor are opinionated, you can also write them just to raise the issue of afterschool, especially as it relates to the community.
- Send a copy of your letter to as many publications as you can in your area; you never know who will pick it up, and you can never have too much publicity. Make sure to use your database to reach out to high-profile members in the community who are sympathetic to your cause. Encourage and work with these individuals to place Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds in the local and regional news outlets.
For more tips on writing Letters to the Editor and to see a sample, click here
Editorial Board Meetings
Most newspaper 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. Find out how to engage these writers at meetings with members of the public. Editorial boards frequently meet with representatives of local organizations, elected officials, candidates and anyone else they think might be able to inform them on 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. It is important to reach out to editorial boards to put ideas about afterschool–related articles on their radar. Here's how to proceed:
- 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.
- Write a brief letter or email to the editorial page editor of your local newspaper requesting a meeting, laying out what you'd like to discuss and why it is important and timely.
- Follow up your letter a day or two after it arrives with a telephone call to the editorial page editor. Be prepared to offer suggested dates and times; steer clear of afternoons, if possible, and Fridays altogether.
- 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.
- 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 programs.
- Know your material and be ready to answer questions.
- Do some research to find out which editorial writer covers this issue. You may want to get back in touch with this writer in the future.
- Leave materials (fact sheets, information on your program, etc.) with the editorial board writers when you leave.
- Send a thank-you note after the meeting, highlighting key points you want to be sure editorial board members remember and addressing any questions you left unanswered.