Tips for Getting Published
Half the battle with getting a letter published is being vigilant about reading the newspaper and looking for opportunities to respond with letters to the editor. And so, with that, I give you my hierarchy of things you can respond to in the newspaper to get a letter published. The higher up in the hierarchy, the better your chances of getting published.
1. Editorials. This is the official stand the newspaper takes on an issue. Letters responding to editorials will usually be given top priority.
2. Front page stories. These are the big stories of the day. If the newspaper decides it's important enough to put on their front page, chances are they'll consider letters about those stories important enough to run on their editorial pages.
3. Staff-written columns. These are columns that appear on the editorial pages that are written by editorial staffers. They provide the "branding" for the newspaper's readership. Letters responding to staff columnists help to promote that brand and that readership.
4. Locally-written opeds. These are opinion pieces written by people in the community. These pieces usually initiate a public conversation about an issue of importance to the community. A letter to the editor continues that convesation.
5. Syndicated columnists. These are columns the newspaper pays for -- syndication or news service -- that are produced by writers who typically opine on national and international issues (George Will, Nicholas Kristof, Paul Krugman, etc.). They appear on the editorial pages, and responding to them will get some consideration.
6. Other letters to the editor. You can respond to someone else's letter. You're starting to scrape the barrel at this point, but if it's an outrageous letter that cries out for a response, it might be considered.
7. Inside news stories. Bit of a stretch, but better than nothing. Most likely will get crowded out by letters responding to all of the above.
With all that said, I'd like to share an example that bears out this hierarchy. I have a google news alert on "cap and trade" that sends me a list of stories, and yesterday it turned up this front-page story from the Springfield News-Leader:
I responded with a letter to the editor. I usually put in the subject line of the email RE: [headline of article I'm referring to]. I got a call from the newspaper this morning to verify my letter, meaning it's likely to get published. They even wanted me to send a picture of myself.
Hope you find this useful.