Writing Editorials

This page is archived material and is no longer updated. It may contain outdated information and broken links. The material presented on these pages is the product of five regional symposia held on restorative justice between June 1997 and January 1998.

Media Relations Methods, Source: National Victim Center, 1990

This page includes guidance on drafting:

Editor's Advisory

PURPOSE

An editor's advisory provides newspaper editors and radio/television news directors with brief, succinct information about a special event or program and, in particular, press availability opportunities.

DESCRIPTION

Editor's advisories should not, in general, be substituted for a press release. Rather, they arc an excellent tool to enhance your press release by reminding the media of a special event or press conference the day before it happens. Editor's advisories are usually reserved only for the editors and producers of major mediums, such as daily newspapers, network affiliates on television and radio, and key radio stations. For major events, editor's advisories can be mailed to your entire media list as a "friendly reminder" of your activities.

Composing an editor's advisory is similar to writing a press release. It should be no more than one page, double-spaced. Your message should be brief and to the point.

Your editor's advisory contains release and contact information exactly the same as a press release. However, the body of the advisory contains only the briefest of details outlined in the following manner:

WHO:

WHAT:

WHEN:

WHERE:

WHY:

NOTE: (includes featured speakers, special visuals, etc.)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: (limit to one paragraph)

If your advisory is distributed as an enhancement to a press release, no follow-up phone call is necessary. If you have mailed your advisory as the sole means of informing the media of your activity, you can contact the person to whom you mailed the advisory and ask if they need additional information.

Editor's advisories are particularly effective when you are under extreme time constraints. Also, editor's advisories can be used when you are scheduling a more informal "press availability" session, rather than a press conference.

Opinion/ Editorial Columns

PURPOSE

Opinion/editorial columns (often referred to as "op/ed" pieces) provide the general reading public with your views, opinions and positions about important issues which affect violent crime victims and the criminal justice system. Such columns also provide you with the opportunity to discuss your state's legislative goals for victims' rights.

DESCRIPTION

The most frequently read section of most newspapers is the "op/ed" page, which features editorials written by editorial staff, letters-to-the-editor, other editorial columns, and columns by guest writers. Op/ed pieces cover a wide range of subjects, including international affairs, national/state/local politics, social issues, economic concerns and (yes!) victims' rights and related criminal justice issues. Take a look at your local newspaper's op/ed page(s). You'll find yourself agreeing with many of the columns and being vehemently opposed to others' thoughts and positions. In either case, however, all the columns probably provide you with plenty of "food for thought."

Opinion/editorial columns can be written to address an important current issue. They can respond to prior columns or articles published by that particular newspaper. Or they can simply be a forum to discuss a "burning" issue affecting your community.

Clearly, opinion/editorial columns addressing victims' rights fit nicely into all three categories. They provide an excellent forum for the average citizen (or not-so-average victim or advocate) to voice a personal opinion or organizational policy for all to read.

Before you submit an opinion/editorial column, it's a good idea to contact your newspaper's editorial staff and ask the following questions:

  • Do you publish op/ed columns?
  • Are there any guidelines I should follow when I submit an op/ed column?
  • Is there a suggested length for the column?
  • What are your advance deadlines for submitting op/ed columns?
  • To whom should I submit it?

When you sit down to write your opinion/editorial column, consider the following suggestions:

  • The column's author(s) should possess good writing skills. You may wish to collaborate with two authors: One who is knowledgeable about the topic you addressing, and one who has strong writing skills.
  • If you are writing in response to a previously published column, article, or letter-to-the-editor, briefly outline the contents of that piece in your first paragraph and note its date of publication.
  • If you are writing on behalf of an organization or coalition, make sure your column adheres strictly to its policies and positions.
  • Use letterhead if you are representing your organization.
  • Make certain all your facts are well researched.
  • Outline your thoughts before you begin writing the text, and carefully follow that outline.
  • Use relevant statistics, case studies, and other current data to emphasize and support your message.
  • Remember, your mission is to not only communicate your message, but to persuade your readers that your position is believable and correct.
  • Carefully follow the deadline and length requirements requested by the newspaper.
  • Type your column double-spaced.
  • Have two or three people edit and proofread your first and final drafts.
  • Provide the editor with a brief personal biography. Include your affiliation with victims' rights.
  • Submit a black-and-white photograph, if requested.
  • Ask the editor to include a "tag" so that readers know how to contact you and your organization for additional information. Provide him or her with your name, organization, address, and telephone number.

Opinion/editorial columns are a simple, free way to educate your community about your organization's programs and policies. Take time to write a column and submit it. You'll be glad you did!

Letters-To-The Editor

PURPOSE

Letters-to-the-editor provide you or your organization with a forum to express your personal opinion about specific issues.

DESCRIPTIONS

Letters-to-the-editor comprise one of the most widely read sections of your newspaper. There are some general conditions under which you may wish to write a letter to your newspaper's editor, including:

  • To express your opinion about a victims' right or criminal justice issue in general
  • To express your opinion about an article, column, or letter previously published in the newspaper
  • To express discontent with a specific part of a newspaper's publication, such as an article or editorial cartoon you may have found to be offensive
  • To invite your community to attend a special event for victims' rights
  • To thank the newspaper, an elected official, your community, etc. for supporting your efforts and
  • To discuss pending victims' rights legislation.

Letters-to-the-editor cost little but your time and creativity. They are an effective way of expressing your organization's views to a large audience.

When you write a letter-to-the-editor, follow the general guidelines offered in the section entitled Opinion/Editorial Columns. Keep it short-one or one-and-a-half pages double-spaced is adequate. Don't be afraid of controversy. And always say what you feel is right.

If a particular issue is extremely important, consider orchestrating a "letter tree" to your editor. Ask five or ten of your colleagues to submit a letter pertaining to the subject at hand. Often, the editorial page editor will enclose several letters addressing the same issue in a special box which really stands out on the page.

Always remember that the editor has the right to shorten your piece because of space limitations. In other words, what you submit may not always be exactly what gets printed.

Date Created: December 6, 2007