Guide to Writing Letters to the Editor & Op-Eds & Newspaper Contacts
An important part of our legislative strategy is to educate the broader public about issues we care about. Most of the public won't read our bill summaries and won't subscribe to our blog where they can get more in-depth analysis of issues. Another important part of our legislative strategy is to expand the Network membership throughout the state. Both of these strategies can be advanced with a concerted media effort. And as is always the Retake approach, we want to make it easy for you to raise your voice effectively at the Roundhouse, with legislators and in the media.
This guide includes a brief description of how to write a good letter from one of our volunteers who is experienced in media relations. At the bottom of the summary, is an initial list of publications throughout the state with links to their site providing information about letter specifications.
We are also creating an inventory of letter templates on each of our MUST PASS bills, along with one on the Network itself. The latter is designed to encourage others in your community to join the Network and advocate effectively. Click here to look at our sample letters to the editor. This is where you can help us expand our base and get good bills through the legislature.
Guide to Writing Letters
- Every print media outlet should have a web site that explains their policy for editorials and letters to the editor. It really helps to stick to their guidelines. Don't write letters longer than they ask for. Long letters give editors excuses to mess with your writing. Meanings can shift in the process.
- You can submit your letter or editorial via e-mail. Either paste your copy into the body of the e-mail or attach a word doc. You can even do both.
- Always include contact information. Editors have to make sure you really are you. I know of a paper that was sued because someone wrote a letter and put another persons name on it. The writer claimed to be a rape survivor. The woman whose name appeared on the letter was not a rape survivor, nor was she amused.
- Don’t let a letter writing campaign look like a letter writing campaign. Don’t have a lot of people make the same points or write letters that are alike.
- If you have personal experience – especially professional experience — that gives your opinions more weight. Teachers can talk about education, etc. Personal experience as a caretaker or parent are all important. Write about how a bill will affect you, your child, your business, your community. Editors are not looking for policy experts, so you shouldn’t try to sound like one.
- There’s a lot of group think among media people. You can turn this to your advantage. For the most part, they love man-on-the-street interviews. They love voices that sound like real people. So, don’t be afraid to explain why you hold your convictions.
- Pick one aspect of a bill that you have direct experience with. It’s best to make just one point and make it well.
- Let it be personal. Speak from the heart. A letter that begins, “When my mother was diagnosed with cancer I learned how complex, expensive, and cruel our health-care system is.” will get an editor’s attention. Then move on and talk about how the bill would have made a difference in your life. State everything simply, in everyday language. Don’t repeat yourself.
- For longer editorial pieces, the last paragraph can return to that first thought or to a person you talked about at the beginning of the piece. For instance, “When this bill passes other sons and daughters will be able to focus on offering support and love instead of becoming exhausted by a byzantine system.” This structure is called an hourglass. It’s simple and effective.
- If your letter doesn’t get published, don’t be discouraged or insulted. Editorial decisions are hard to fathom. Maybe too many letters about the same subject arrived in the same week. Maybe an editor feels that story has already been covered. But you can be sure the editor noticed how many letters arrived on any subject. Even without getting published, letters influence what news gets coverage. Try writing another letter on a different bill.
Inventory of Media Outlets
If a daily or weekly newspaper published in your community, please write to email@example.com and we will include it in this developing list. Wherever a newspaper requires submitting in a form, we recommend you craft your letter or op-ed in a word processing program and then copy and paste your finished product. And, to reiterate one of the primary points above, your personal reasons for supporting a bill or for recommending the Network are much more likely to be published and much more likely to have an impact on readers.
- Albuquerque Journal. 350 words for letter to the editor, 650 words for my view. Letters must include writer's signature, home address and telephone, and a daytime number. Though addresses and phone numbers are not published, they are needed to confirm authorship prior to publication.
- Santa Fe New Mexican. The link takes you to a form to be used for submitting a letter (150 words) or My View (600 words)
- The Daily Times. The Daily Times covers the Four Corners, including Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield and the Navajo Nation. Send your 250-word (or less) letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have more to say? Write us a Local Voices column at a maximum of 500 words. Columns of local or statewide interest get first consideration.
- The Gallup Independent. Letters may not exceed 500 words. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. The Independent may choose not to print any letter for any reason. Letters may be mailed, delivered in person, faxed or emailed to: Editor, The Independent, P.O. Box 1210, Gallup, NM 87305, fax: 505-722-5750; email: email@example.com.
Las Cruces Sun-News. We are Las Cruces’ online and print resource providing information for the audience and the most comprehensive news coverage in southern New Mexico.
- Letters must be 300 words or less to be considered for publication.
- Letters must include the writer's full name, address, ZIP code and phone number for verification purposes.
- Please allow 14 days between letters.
Roswell Daily Record. The link takes you to a form where you can submit a letter. There were no word limits posted, but email and phone contact info was provided at this link where clarification can be sought.
Silver City Daily Press & Independent. Letters can be mailed to Box 1371, Silver City, NM 88062, or submitted using the form below. Because of space limitations, we prefer short letters on topics of concern to Grant County residents which are less than 250 words in length. Longer submissions may be rejected or considered for publication as a guest column. This is done so that we can publish the maximum number of letters, and everyone has equal access to the letters column.
Hobbs News-Sun. Covering Lea County and southeast New Mexico. For questions regarding letters to the editor in the Hobbs News-Sun, email the editor.
Carlsbad Current-Argus. Serving as the local news source for Carlsbad, Artesia, Loving, and all of Eddy County, New Mexico, since 1889. The link above takes you to a page where letters and guest articles can be posted.
Alamogordo Daily News. No guidelines were posted on the paper's website, but contact information for the editor is: Duane Barbati, Editor. (575) 437-7120 ext.7134. firstname.lastname@example.org