Newspapers, whether they are online or in hard copy, are still an important way of getting information about what is happening in your community, city, country or world. Have you ever tried to express your opinion in a newspaper? Many people think that it’s only the viewpoint of journalists, politicians and a few select others whose opinions are found in newspapers. But your opinion is important and you CAN submit it to be included in the ‘Letters to the Press’ section.
This opinion section of the newspaper is often the most widely read and it allows you to reach a much larger audience than you would if you were using a social media platform such as Facebook. Many well-known personalities have Twitter profiles that they use to give their opinions but it is difficult to have many followers as a member of the public. A newspaper doesn’t require you personally to have followers at all, just for the newspaper to have readers.
Why would you write a letter to the press?
- To express your anger, encouragement or agreement about a current issue, often something that has been highlighted in an article in the newspaper.
- To change people’s thinking by expressing your opinion and pointing out facts that might enlighten them.
- To influence public opinion and persuade others to take action.
- To start a community conversation about a relevant issue.
What information to include in a letter to the press?
The information required before you start the actual content of the letter:
- Your address and contact information.
This is important because the newspaper needs to know who you are (even if you ask the editor to publish it anonymously). Your contact information allows them to authenticate that you are a real person which makes your letter genuine or real. The newspaper will not publish your letter without this.
- The date you are writing the letter.
This shows its relevance to what is currently happening.
- Include the name and address of the recipient of the letter (the person who will receive it).
In this case, the recipient will be the editor of the newspaper and the address will be the newspaper’s address. This is very similar to a formal business letter.
- Write a simple salutation or greeting.
This is normal when writing a letter. In this case, ‘Dear Editor’ works well. Remember, though, that you are not writing in a personal way to the editor himself/herself. You are writing about another issue so you don’t ‘attack’ the editor as if he wrote the original article or as if he is responsible for the issue you want to bring up.
The content of the letter:
- Explain what your letter is about.
Your introduction needs to grab your audience’s attention. You do that by immediately stating what you’re writing about which makes the reader want to read more. Your key point about an issue is the central focus of the introduction. If you are responding to an article in the newspaper, then you need to include the name of the article and the date it was published too.
- Explain why the issue is important.
The general public probably doesn’t share your background or have your particular interest in the issue. Explain the issue and its importance simply.
- State your opinion and, possibly, what should be done about the issue.
Your letter could just be to let the public know what you think about something so you can ”vent,” or support or criticise a certain action or policy. You might also have some suggestions about what could be done to improve the situation. If so, add these as well. Be specific. Include good reasons for your opinion and suggestions. Keep it brief.
You may include the following in this section of the letter:
- Recent events in your community as evidence.
- Factual information such as statistics to show that what you are writing is true.
- A personal story that illustrates your point.
- Current events that support your opinion.
- Conclude this section by summarising your main point.
Summarise your main point in one sentence to remind your audience of it. Do not thank the editor or give any other ‘flowery’ endings to this section of your letter.
The information required after the content of the letter is concluded:
- Sign the letter and write your name.
It is an option to include your address here if you haven’t added it at the top of your letter.
If you were emailing a letter to the press (as is now the common way of submitting it) include you email and telephone number here too.
What are some of the features of writing a letter to the press?
- You usually use formal language as you want it to be selected for publication in the newspaper.
- Write in a way that is appropriate to the level of reading of your audience.
- Never be rude, even if you’re angry.
- Be respectful and polite in your tone.
- Be straight and to the point.
- Keep it brief. 150 to 300 words is enough.
Once you have written your letter to the press, send it to the newspaper. It’s very exciting to see your letter published and know that it may be able to influence the public about an issue that you really care about.