Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How Can an Academic Publish an Op/Ed?

Do you want to publish an Op/Ed? I do! I have a deep yearning to open up the New York Times and find my name next to a provocative headline in the Op/Ed section of their paper. In fact, it is my goal to have one published by the time I am 40. That gives me about thirteen months to achieve this goal.

The New York Times.

I want to publish an Op/Ed because I am aware of lots of things that never make it into the mainstream media. I have an analysis and a viewpoint that I almost never see in mainstream media. As an academic, I want a role in the public discourse. I want people to at least contemplate my point of view and the facts and analysis that I can offer.

Publishing an Op/Ed in the New York Times is a lofty goal – if you think rejection rates are high for journals, consider that the New York Times gets hundreds of Op/Ed submissions daily and can only publish a handful. The acceptance rates are well below 1 percent.

So, how am I going to work towards this goal of publishing an Op/Ed?

Let’s start with what I have already done. I haven’t just sat around and wished for this to happen. I have been working on it.

I submitted my first Op/Ed to the New York Times on March 23, 2009. I have submitted three more to the New York Times since, each of which was rejected. Simply submitting Op/Eds to the New York Times was not paying off. So, I decided to get some help.

I did some online research. I found this amazing website: http://www.theopedproject.org. The Op/Ed Project is dedicated to getting more voices into mainstream media and has lots of information about how to write Op/Eds and where to submit them.

They have a formula on their website for how to write an Op/Ed. Of course everything has a formula, so no surprise Op/Eds do as well. I followed their instructions on how to write an Op/Ed, quoted below:

Lede (Around a news hook) 
Thesis (Statement of argument – either explicit or implied) 
Argument: Based on evidence (such as stats, news, reports from credible organizations, expert quotes, scholarship, history, first-hand experience)

• 1st Point:
◦ evidence
◦ evidence
◦ conclusion

• 2nd Point
◦ evidence
◦ evidence
◦ conclusion 
• 3rd Point
◦ evidence
◦ evidence
◦ conclusion

To Be Sure” paragraph (in which you pre-empt your potential critics by acknowledging any flaws in your argument, and address any obvious counter-arguments.)

Conclusion (often circling back to your lede)
Once I wrote my Op/Ed according to their formula (more or less), I submitted it to the New York Times. No luck.

I decided to get some training. I participated in a teleworkshop put on by the Council on Contemporary Families. After the workshop, the workshop leader, Stephanie Coontz – who has published many pieces in the New York Times – was kind enough to help edit the piece for me. I took my edited piece and submitted it to the New York Times again. No luck.

I decided to try and submit to other places. The Op/Ed Project has a list of places to submit Op/Eds. I used their list of places to submit and slowly made my way down this list: I tried the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, and the Washington Post. Then, I tried the Kansas City Star – my local paper. With no luck in the mainstream outlets, I sent the piece to Counterpunch and they published it!

I am very proud to be a contributor to Counterpunch, but I still would like to have a larger audience. So, I signed up for an Op/Ed core seminar.

In the intensive all-day workshop, I learned that I am an expert on criminal deportations to Jamaica, what makes a convincing argument, the importance of ledes, how to marshal convincing evidence, and many other things. I left the workshop confident that I have many, many Op/Eds that I could write. The trick would be to decide which one I would start with, and how I could write one that is timely and relevant.

I am currently drafting an Op/Ed. Once I am finished, I will send it to a Mentor/Editor, courtesy of the Op/Ed Project. Then, I will send it to the New York Times. If they don’t want to publish it, I will send it to other mainstream outlets. If they don’t want it, I will just keep going down my list until I find a place willing to publish it. Then, I will start again, with a new Op/Ed.

What about you? Do you want to get your voice into the mainstream media? Have you been successful? How?