Each of us is aware that civil discourse has all but disappeared and our country is polarized by ideology and cultural issues. In some cases, intentional strategies are employed by politicians to maintain the divisiveness. We are all aware of
the value and importance of listening and talking about issues and concerns with people from differing perspectives.
One way to begin that conversation is by writing Letters to the Editor to local and regional newspapers. Letters to the Editor (LTEs) can offer perspective, educate about an issue, extend a bridge for future discussion and endorse a candidate. LTEs can also be used to state disagreement or concerns about an issue or bill, to denounce a political leader’s
Here are tips and ideas for writing about issues and endorsing candidates using the Letters to the Editor section. The organization Emerge Washington, which is dedicated to helping women from the Democratic Party get elected, provided many of these suggestions.
Why write to local and regional papers?
- You can reach a large population throughout your region.
- You can inform readers about issues they may not know about.
- You can explain or provide details about an issue.
- You can offer perspective and personal experience that create conversations around issues.
- Regional and local politicians pay attention to LTEs, especially what is said about them.
How do you select a subject?
- Read several weeks of LTEs to see important themes and topics.
- Pick a subject that is current.
- Consider the message you want to express: how will it help the current conversation around it?
- What’s missing from the LTE coverage? Do you have an expertise or personal experience that people should hear?
- In this midterm election year, a candidate endorsement that includes the reasons why you are voting for them can help influence undecided voters.
- Encourage participation in an event or activity.
First Things First
- Identify the regional papers in your Congressional district. Check their policies for submission and publication. This is important because urban papers have had to change their policies as population increases.
- Most papers will have an online method for submission. You can also send it via snail mail.
- Most papers have a limit on number of words for a LTE (usually 200-250). Many papers limit candidate endorsements to 100 words.
- Use your real name and location. Newspapers will often call or email to verify your name and that you wrote the LTE.
- Fact check any assertions and statistics; large urban papers will check and refuse to publish your letter unless you edit it to be accurate. Provide your sources to help them with fact-checking.
- Stick to one subject and include a personal story or a research study or something to help provide support.
- Editors will generally create the title of the LTE and sometimes it may not be the best title for your intended purpose. Be very clear in what you are saying to avoid this.