Letters to the Editor — They matter

It may seem old-fashioned in the digital age, but letters-to-the-editor can have a big impact in several unique ways:

    1. Consider the Source(s). When we call our Members’ offices, they hear about it from their staffs — which is hugely important. But when your letter is published, they’ll find out in a Google Alert, unprepared. Then they’ll hear from staff and spend time debating if they need to respond. Often, a letter is brought up by the Member’s friends, donors, and spouse. Members can hear about negative letters for a few days, each time striking a chord that is both personal and publicly embarrassing.

    2. Respect your Elders. Ok, youngin’, you might not read newspapers, but you know who does? Older people. You know what else older people do? Vote. Think your Members of Congress know that? You bet they do.

    3. Burst Your Bubble. Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets to make up alternative facts every day because she knows most Trump supporters are not consuming the media that will call her out. Letters to the editor offer us the chance to burst through the media bubble to get our opinions and real facts in front of people who might not see them otherwise.

    4. Newspapers are still read all over. Newspapers may be dying but it is a slow death. Most mid-size cities have at least one paper with over 100,000 readers. In smaller cities, like Toledo, OH, a majority of households get the paper.

    5. Share. You’ve been published! Get a shareable link or take a picture and tell everyone you know the old-fashioned way: Email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

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Tips on Writing Letters

Every paper has their own rules for publication, but these guidelines should work for most.

  1. Keep it to 200 words. And there’s nothing wrong with 1 or 2 sentences.
  2. Avoid vulgarity.
  3. Focus on a single issue.
  4. Tell personal stories when applicable.
  5. Angry is fine but not nasty. Use strong terms to describe actions you disagree with but don’t call names or mock people’s appearance or personal lives.
  6. Stay local. If you live in Kentucky, Missouri papers don’t care what you think.
  7. Focus on local members (more than one is fine) when you can and do tie them to Trump, but avoid generalizations about conservatives and Republicans.

Most publications will not print multiple letters from the same person in a single six-week span, so after you get published, you’ll want to shift your energies to other outlets for a bit.