Genetically Engineered Foods

Writing Effective Letters to the Editor In Support of Your Issue

This lesson is a tutorial for those seeking either an introductory lesson or a refresher on writing effective letters to the editor. The lesson begins by detailing the news hierarchy so that you’ll understand what’s deemed important in the eyes of the editor. Next we’ll describe the formula for effective LTEs, protocol and etiquette. The lesson continues with celebrating your success: what to do when your letter is published. Finally, we’ll apply all of the skills we just learned to two actual news stories. Those seeking additional help will be provided an example to work offline.

Two options for listening to the call:

  1. Click the following link: http://67.55.209.50/conferences/conf481137-2393970.0.wav OR
  2. Dial the playback line (712-432-3903) and enter the conference ID (2393970).

During playback, users can scroll forward, backward and pause the recorded conference by using dialing *1 to rewind 30 seconds, *2 to fast forward 30 seconds or *5 to pause/resume playback.

Towards the end of the call Judy Weiss will walk you through two examples of stories and the letters published in response.

Key Learnings

  1. The News Hierarchy

To which stories should I respond? Finding the right story doesn't just mean a story with a relevant topic. We also need to consider what the newspaper feels is newsworthy (e.g. a front page story is more relevant than one buried deep in the paper). The easiest way to figure this out is to follow the news hierarchy of stories, and the closer to the top, the more likely you are to be published (a more complete summary is here):

  • Editorials
  • Front page stories
  • Staff-written columns (i.e. by the newspaper's own columnist)
  • Locally-written op-eds
  • Editorial cartoons
  • Syndicated columnist
  • Other Letters to the Editor
  • Inside news stories
  1. The LTE Formula

This formula will increase your chances of getting published

  1. Start by referencing the story or a specific part (line, thought, etc.) of the story. A short reference praising the writer or paper works well.
  2. Transition into how it relates to climate change.
  3. Identify a solution.
  4. Call to action.
  5. Be creative in your close by employing a rhetorical device such as repetition, a play on words or closing the circle from the letter’s beginning.
  6. Try to incorporate the use of metaphors and wit, but always be respectful.
  1. Not every letter has to champion Fee & Dividend or a Revenue-neutral Carbon Tax. Write conversationally, not in talking points. Ask yourself this question: if read, would this letter move your member of Congress or citizens closer to our position?

The LTE Formula in action

Read these two articles:
http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/globalwarming/study-higher-tides-from-climate-change-likely-to-make-hurricane-flooding/2162278

http://www.chron.com/default/article/Perspective-on-our-fuel-prices-4813209.php

LTE formula for the Tampa Bay Tribune story.

  1. Identify the section of the story referenced:

“High tides have been getting higher and low tides lower at cities around the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new study produced in part by scientists at the University of South Florida.

Those extreme swings, caused at least in part by global climate change, have increased since the 1990s, the study found.

The trend for sea level rise spells very bad news for anyone living along the coast if a hurricane hits during one of those higher high tides.

The changes . . . have almost doubled the risk of hurricane-induced flooding associated with sea level rise since the 1990s for the eastern and northeastern Gulf of Mexico coastlines," noted the study, published by the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.”

  1. Read opening line that make reference to the story:

Thanks for Craig Pittman's informative article on high tides getting higher and threatening businesses, homes and infrastructure while raising everyone's flood insurance rates.

  1. Identify the transition into climate change:

Gov. Rick Scott isn't so sure about man-made climate change. One would think the governor of Florida, where 95 percent of the population lives within 35 miles of the coast, would nonetheless take out climate change insurance to protect his state.

Climate change insurance means doing what the vast majority of scientists and economists say to do to slow climate change, even if the governor isn't 100 percent sure it is happening. That is what insurance means: When there is uncertainty, buy protection.

The vast majority of scientists say greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from fossil fuel use, are the cause of climate change. So climate insurance would entail lowering these emissions.

  1. Identify the solution and call to action (pivot to policy)

Moreover, the vast majority of scientists and economists say the best way to lower emissions is with a national, revenue-neutral carbon tax that would reduce emissions in all sectors of our economy efficiently and equitably. If Congress requires that the tax be rebated to households, then consumers can be protected from price increases.

  1. Identify the close (closing the loop example)

And if costs go up a little bit, consider it a small price to pay to protect your house, business, land, food supply, water supply and your families' lives.
The second example is a bit more subtle in its call to action; however, it espouses the values that resonate in the district.

http://www.chron.com/default/article/Perspective-on-our-fuel-prices-4813209.php

  1. Identify the section of the story referenced:

“The fundamental reason: Oil markets are not national, but global. Prices are set by world-wide supply and demand. Here's a good way to understand this critical point: Think of global oil production as water in a swimming pool. Remove a glassful from one end of the pool and the level declines everywhere; add a glassful at the other end and the opposite occurs.”

“The inference for the United States is clear. Even were we to become fully self-sufficient in petroleum, major disruptions in supply elsewhere would lead to price increases here at home.”

  1. Read opening line that make reference to the story:

Joe Barnes and James Coan quite accurately describe the global nature of the oil market and why domestic oil production has only a modest impact on prices. Indeed, while there is much government tinkering on the cost side of oil production, oil prices are determined by the free market in almost its purest form. No wonder the oil industry is at home in freedom-loving Texas!

  1. Identify the transition:

Unfortunately, this is only half of the story. Good conservative Texans believe in accountability and paying one's own way. However, we consumers aren't currently being asked to pay for the costs that our greenhouse gas emissions are causing society.

The reality is, we are paying for those impacts - but instead of making it transparent and efficient by tagging it onto the price of gasoline, it's costing us through an overburdened federal government in the form of FEMA payouts, increased highway maintenance and farmer drought assistance. That's hardly conservatism.

  1. Identify the solution and call to action (pivot to policy)

Although domestic oil production is, as the essay notes, a good thing in the immediate term, it is becoming ever more apparent that ignoring the externalities of its use is perhaps the greatest failure in the history of the free market.

  1. Identify the close (closing the loop example)

And that's true for oil drilled here or overseas.

*Thanks to Peter Lennon, member of Woodinville UU  Church (Woodinville, WA) for securing permissions and posting this article.  Peter heads up the newly organized Citizen Climate Lobby in Bothell, Washington.

Members can respond to Peter Lennon by: 1) signing in and then 2) posting your comments below and/or 3) contacting Peter directly by clicking on Participants (upper left), searching for Lennon, and sending Peter a message via our member-to-member confidential email. Not a member? Join NWuuJN.*

Glossary

Citation

Lobby, C. (2014). Writing Effective Letters to the Editor In Support of Your Issue. Retrieved from http://www.nwuujn.org/view/article/530fba850cf2ec6c48cae146

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