A letter-to-the-editor (or, LTE) is a reader response to a news item ran by a media outlet. Writing LTEs to your local or regional media outlets is an effective way to reach a large audience, since the editorial page is one of the most read sections. Also, elected officials at the federal and local levels monitor local media (including LTEs) in order to keep track of what their constituents care about.
In short, an LTE is a great way to get your representatives’ attention and influence the public narrative about an issue.
Be timely. Aim to send your LTE to the editor one or two days after the article you’re responding was published.
Follow the outlet’s guidelines. Check the outlet’s LTE/opinion section for any unique rules or conventions they may want your LTE to follow. Some outlets have a word maximum for LTEs.
Keep it short. Outlets often cut LTEs that they feel run long. Since its possible they’ll cut your main point, it’s best to be concise. If the outlet doesn’t have a word maximum, an ideal word count is 150 - 250 words.
Keep it original. Write from your unique perspective – you can even include portions of the advocacy story. And, of course, do not plagiarize.
Mentions officials by name. Even though Members of Congress do monitor local media, mentioning them by name in your LTE will ensure that they see it. Stick to commenting about their voting record, press releases, or other official activities. You can also encourage them to take a specific action, like co-sponsoring a bill. Always keep your comments respectful!
Consider alternative engagement. Even if the outlet doesn’t publish your LTE, there are other ways to get your message out there. If you watch or listen to a news show that solicits viewer responses, consider sending yours. See if your local news outlets or reporters are on social media and share your LTE’s content with them there.
Download "The Advocate's Toolbox" to see an example LTE that was published in a national newspaper.
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