Have you ever written a Letter to the Editor?
It is trendy to say that print is dead and newspapers are dying. But a lot of people are still reading newspapers and getting their information from newspapers. Letters to the Editor (LTEs) still have a role to play in the #resistance, and are an excellent activism tool for people with mobility problems who are unable to take to the streets and march.
Readers of LTEs are people we really want to reach. They are the kind of people who actually read newspapers for news, as opposed to just skimming the headlines, reading their horoscope, and checking the sports scores.
Another group of people that read LTEs regularly are folks who write LTEs themselves: activists who are really involved and interested in politics. Someone may see what you write and make a networking connection that helps a local candidate or a local resistance organization.
Even a casual or occasional reader of LTEs may be influenced by seeing what other people in the area are thinking.
So if you have never written one before, I invite you to step out of your comfort zone, pick a topic you care about, and get started.
First, identify the paper in your region with the largest circulation. Anyone can write to the "national" papers of record, but if you live near Chicago and write to the Chicago Sun Times, you may increase your chances of being published as compared to writing to the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times. Mention where you live: your city if it’s a big city, your state if you want to be a little more anonymous, since they will require that you publish your real name.
Keep it timely: write about something that has been in that day's edition of the paper. If a story appears on the front page on Tuesday and Tuesday evening you send in your LTE, you have a better chance of getting published than if you wait until Wednesday or Thursday.
Reference the story in your letter. If you have a print copy of the paper, mention the page number. Otherwise just make a note of the fact that you are responding to a particular story instead of just writing generally on a topic.
KISS: Keep it short and sweet. Short letters are more likely to get printed. You don’t have enough space to build palaces out of paragraphs. If you are used to 140 characters on Twitter, extend that thinking to your letter and keep yourself to 150 words. If you go a little bit over, that's OK, but thinking of that very stringent boundary will help you be brief. Most word processing programs have a "tool" that will count the words in a document automatically. Make a game out of hitting 150 exactly.
Last but not least: mention your progressive point of view. If you are writing to a conservative paper, and they have any desire at all for balance, yours may be the one letter they include from the liberal side.
Many newspapers have online submission of LTEs now. You don't need to print it out, find an envelope, look up the address, buy a stamp, and walk to a mailbox.
Draft the letter in your word processing program, and when you have it just right, copypaste it into the online submission form.
Most important of all: if your letter is not printed, you still may have made an impression.
If a lot of letters come in on a particular topic, it is a signal to the newspaper that their audience is showing strong interest in that topic. It may encourage them to cover the topic more extensively.
And if a lot of letters come on expressing a specific view on a particular topic (please don't repeal Obamacare! Jeff Sessions is unfit to be Attorney General! What conflicts of interest is DJT hiding?), it is a signal to the newspaper as to what side most people are on, and the average newspaper, desperate for readers, would not usually make a decision to be in opposition to its readership.
If you live in a smaller city, it would only take a few letters to get the editor's attention. Asking your friends to write all on the same day might make a splash. It is a wonderful organizing tool to create a listserv for the purpose of LTE writing. People everywhere are looking for something to DO.
When a topic is hot, send an email to 20 friends with a link to the article and a link to the online LTE submission form and a few words of request: please send a quick letter to the editor TODAY in response to this article and make your feelings known about Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, or whatever the topic is.
There has been a lot of focus lately on writing to Congresscritters. The local and regional newspapers deserve to get some of the same attention.
Organized letter writing campaigns are just one more tactic that worked for the Red Team that we can use to our advantage now. We are better writers than they are. And we outnumber them.
Previous TRUE BLUE REPORT diaries
Jan 25: The Asch Conformity Study, inauguration crowds, and the importance of speaking out
Jan 24: #ResistTrumpTuesday—good news day or another paying dues day?
Jan 23: Spy the Lie 101: How to enjoy watching Rcon spokesbot interviews, even KAC!
Jan 22: Why I prayed for the President* today
Jan 21: The only silver lining in the midst of these clouds
Inaugural (!) diary: Stop expecting Republicons to make sense