Press the Press member Vicki Ryder provided most of these tips. Let us know if you have more to add!
Top tip! If the issue you are writing about involves a certain decision-maker and you can gracefully include that person’s name, it is likely that the person will see your letter, since his/her staff probably scans the media for that name.
If you have a title or credential that lends authority to the viewpoints in your letter, include it in your signature.
Here are some tips for following up when your letter to the editor doesn’t get published:
- Before you sent it, did you have it critiqued by someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the subject to be sure it will be understood by John Q. Public?
- Did you have it critiqued by someone who is knowledgeable about the subject for fact-checking and for proofreading?
- Did you observe the paper’s guidelines for word limit and frequency of posting?
- Did you submit it in the paper’s preferred format? (Most papers like you to use the forms found on their websites. Second best is e-mail. Snail mail is no longer preferred, as it means that someone on their dwindling staff will need to re-key it.)
- Did you call the opinion editor to make sure it was received? They’re likely to say they don’t recall getting it, which then gives you the opportunity to let them know why you think it’s important, and to resend it and make sure they’ll be watching for it. If they say they won’t be running it, you can ask them what would need to change to make it acceptable for publication. You can get some good clues for future letters by how they answer.
Even if your letter doesn’t appear in the paper, it matters that you wrote. It gives the editors information about what their readers care about, making it more likely that the next letter on that topic, even if it isn’t your letter, will get published.