Write an Editorial
How to Write and Submit a Letter to the Editor
(Composed/Compiled Don Wildman)
Several of my colleagues have said they would be willing to write point-of-view articles or letters to the editor, but they were unsure how to start. They wanted to be sure that what they wrote supported NCCCFA goals this legislative session and did not blur the association message.
They also asked for reasons why readers should support the legislative goals and for evidence to support those reasons. Needing some help, I turned to the Division of Business & Finance at the System Office and to the Council of Community College Library Administrators. I am most grateful for their responses, which are incorporated below. I also downloaded some good ideas on the Capital Bond issue from the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) Web site.
If you would like to help the NCCCFA in its efforts to inform the public and the General Assembly about the needs and accomplishments of North Carolina's community colleges, please read through the following information. Feel free to use any of the ideas or information below in your articles and letters. Of course, you should also think about these issues and use good ideas of your own.
Flesh out your articles and letters with specific examples, statistics, and the opinions of experts. You can gather most of this evidence on your own campus. To get the details and concrete illustrations that will give your articles substance, interview students, faculty and staff colleagues, department heads, deans, vice presidents, and your president.
When you interview others, be sure to get their permission to publish what they say. You should also get permission from any students you use as examples if the students would be identifiable from any details about them that you include in your article.
In point-of-view articles, limit yourself to using three to five reasons or main points. Research has shown that the average reader can hold in his or her mind only five points before the reader starts to lose track. Three or four reasons would be ideal.
For letters to the editor, which are much shorter than articles, stick to one or two main points, three maximum.
In newspapers, length requirements are strict. Point-of-view articles should be 500 to 800 words. For the News & Observer, letters to the editor must be less than 250 words. Most of the other major newspapers in the state have a 150-word maximum for letters to the editor. For more details, check with the newspapers that you plan to send your articles and letters to. See Media Links for a listing of newspapers in North Carolina.
When you send your article or letter to the editor, be sure to include your name, home address, and daytime phone number. You should also include your job title and your community college.
When you send your article or letter off, wait a week to see if the newspaper publishes it. If it doesn't, call the editor and politely inquire whether he or she thinks your work will get published. Be prepared to use a little persuasion to convince a wavering editor that your article or letter should be published.
When you pick the newspaper you want to send your article or letter to, choose two more backup newspapers. If your first-choice newspaper doesn't publish your article, send it to your second choice. If your second choice doesn't publish it, send it to your third choice. If your third choice doesn't publish it, send it to me, and I'll help you rework it so you can send it out again. But don't give up just because of one or two rejections.
Action after Publication
When your article or letter is published, please fax me a copy, and I'll take it down to the System Office and encourage them to distribute it widely: Wake Technical CC fax: (919) 779-3360 (include my name, Don Wildman, on the fax coversheet).
Also, to initiate the permission process of archiving your article at the NCCCFA website, please e-mail the following information to the NCCCFA Systems Director at email@example.com: your name; the name of the newspaper which has published your article; the date of publication.
When you get your article or letter published once, don't stop there. Write a new cover letter stating where your piece has been published, and send your article or letter to a second newspaper. When it gets published in the second paper, repeat the process, and send it to a third. Get as much mileage out of your writing as you can. Please send me copies of all your publications.
If you would like editorial help with your articles or letters, check with colleagues in your English Department, talk to your college's public information officer, or send your writing to me and I'll be glad to help you.
Thank you for your help in raising awareness of community colleges among the public and in the legislature. Your participation is vital to the success of our efforts.
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