Letters-to-the-editor are an effective way to get your message out to members of your community including key decision-makers. Unlike newspaper articles, these letters are printed in your own words and can therefore have a great impact on your advocacy efforts. At the same time, it becomes even more important to craft your messages carefully. The following are a few tips to help you undertake this task.
Have a Reason For Writing
Construct your letters in response to a recent article, editorial, or community event. For example, “I am writing in response to your article about sexuality education, (‘Anytown Changes Sex Ed Program’, March 1, 2010).” Your letter should be submitted as quickly as possible after the publication of the original piece: within one or two days is best.
Explain Where You Fit In
Start by noting your relationship to the issue, such as “I am the father of a fifth-grader” or “I am a health professional.”
State the Facts
State facts to support your position. Include relevant data when applicable. For example, “I am concerned about rising teen pregnancy rates in ______Any______ County. According to the Department of Health, teen pregnancy rates increased at the staggering rate of __10__ % between last year and this year.”
Keep it Short
Keep the letter short and to the point. The shorter your submission, the more likely it will be printed in its entirety.
Stick to the issues and do not attack individual reporters. Readers will respect reasoned arguments.
Use the Opportunity
When applicable, take the opportunity to elicit support for your coalition, to encourage community members to attend school board meetings, etc. Give people a way to contact you in case they would like to get involved.
Make the Connections
In some cases, it may help to connect sexuality education to other pertinent issues for your community. For example, “A conservative parents’ group has started attacking the existing sexuality education program, at the same time the group has asked that a variety of books be put on restricted access at the local library. Clearly, this group has a broader agenda.”
The last sentence of the letter is as important as the first. Restate your support for comprehensive sexuality education in the closing sentence of the letter.
Include Important Information
Make sure to include your address, phone number, and the date you submitted the letter. Follow up with a phone call to find out if your letter will run.
Monitor the Paper
Monitor the paper’s “Letters-to-the-Editor” column. Assess its balance in coverage and write if you notice an imbalance.