The opinion section of the newspaper is read more frequently than any other. Letters to the editor (LTEs) provide a highly credible display of public sentiment to legislators and other important readers. LTEs cost nothing except a small investment of time and thought and can have a significant and lasting impact on the issue.
An LTE can provide:
• An explanation of how your issue relates to other items currently being covered in the news
• A correction of facts after a misleading, inaccurate or biased letter or story
• A chance to respond to other editorials
• A rebuttal to a news or feature story
• A chance to cover the local effects/results of national issues and raise local public awareness of an issue
• A chance to furnish insight on news and issues not being adequately covered by your local newspaper.
Writing an effective LTE:
• Find out the newspaper’s policy for LTEs. Most newspapers have this information readily available on their website under the opinion section. A general rule of thumb is to stick to under 200 words and always include your name, city and a phone number. Email your LTE to the correct email address – one is usually reserved for LTE’s.
• Be concise.
• Stick to one subject.
• Be timely. Newspapers will rarely print letters about subjects that are not in the news. Use a recent news event or recently published article as a link for making your letter timely.
• Use your credentials. If you have personal experience or expertise in the subject area, mention it.
• Concentrate on the local angle.
• Follow up with the paper to check on publication.
Here’s a sample LTE written about the Arctic Refuge Wilderness bill introduction. It was introduced on April 4th with a record number of co-sponsors. If your member of Congress signed on, this is a great opportunity to show the Arctic Refuge some love.
Americans want the Arctic Refuge protected
The Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic places, home to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, musk oxen, wolves, imperiled polar bears, and nearly 200 species of migratory birds that migrate to six continents and all 50 states.
On April 4, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced bills in the Senate and House to designate the Coastal Plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness.
Even though Alaska lawmakers and the oil and gas industry are interested in drilling the Refuge for short-term gains, we have a right to weigh in on how our public lands are used. In fact, a recent poll by the Center on American Progress shows that nearly 2/3 of Americans oppose drilling in the Refuge, with a majority ‘strongly opposed.’
The Arctic Refuge is too special to drill and our representatives should do everything they can to protect this wild and wonderful place.
If you are interested in writing and submitting an LTE or have questions, contact Monica (at) AlaskaWild.org. If you send in an LTE, we’d love to hear about it so that we can keep an eye out for it. Or better yet, let us know when you get published!