Friday, September 6, 2013

How to Submit an OpEd to a Major Newspaper

Every so often, we academics get fired up and want to write an opinion piece so that the world can hear what we have to say. Just how do you submit an OpEd to the New York Times, The Huffington Post, or the Washington Post?

The Washington Post

In a previous post I shared information on how to write an OpEd. Here, I will discuss how you actually go about submitting one.

The first thing you should know is that the OpEd project actually has a comprehensive listing of just about any mainstream media outlet where you might want to submit. That listing is here.

Like most things, however, the process is not as simple as just sending your OpEd to one of those editors and then waiting to see it in print or online. Instead, you have to develop a strategy to ensure the best possible outcome.

Your strategy will depend on a wide variety of factors – mostly timing and your content. Here are a few suggestions for submission strategies.

Strategy 1: Go straight to the top

OpEds have to relate to current news. So, let’s say something major happened last night and you are able to write a solid 800 words about the event and its importance this morning. Lets suppose that, in addition to that, you are able to get two friends to look over the piece, provide feedback, and by 3pm EST you have a solid piece on a major news event.

Ok. That is golden, and you should send the piece directly to the editor of the Opinion page of the New York Times letting them know that you would like a quick response because of the timely nature of your piece. If you have a connection or a direct email address to the NYT or another opinion page editor, send it straight to them.

Someone will see your email. If they want to publish it, they will contact you very quickly.

This strategy works best when you have a hard-hitting piece ready to go on a major news topic. News gets old quickly in mass media, so you have to be ready and act quickly.

That strategy can be difficult, however. Fortunately, there are other options.

Strategy 2: Aim locally

Another option is to try and publish a piece in your local paper. Let’s say you know the school board is meeting in two weeks to discuss a major redistricting plan. Suppose you are an expert in education and have some strong, empirically-based opinions about the redistricting plan in your town.

Here, you have a little bit of room and can spend a few days writing your piece, getting feedback, and revising it. Once it is ready, yet before the school board meeting, you can send it out with the lede: “On Tuesday, the local school board will meet to discuss redistricting. Only one of the plans they have on the table is optimal for our town. Here’s why.”

(By the way, I did not completely make that strategy up. My colleague, Irenee Beattie, actually did this and you can read her awesome OpEd here.)

Strategy 3: Aim left (or right)

There are lots of places you can publish that are not The New York Times. In fact, in the digital era, you can publish a piece just about anywhere and get a million hits if it strikes the right chord.

Do you read any online magazines? I am an unabashed leftist, and I read Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, and the Black Agenda Report. What outlets do you read? If your views are outside of the mainstream, I suspect you are reading more than mainstream media. Think about trying to publish a piece in independent media.

Often independent media will publish articles that are not necessarily today’s news. They also will publish longer pieces. That gives us academics a bit more time to sit and think through our ideas and arguments. You could write a piece today in these outlets about why attacking Syria is a bad idea, but you also could write about something less well-known, like the teacher strikes in Mexico or the future of green energy.

I will also point out here two fine outlets that have published many academics lately: The Boston Review and Al Jazeera Opinion. There may be others, but I have noticed that these two publish many academic voices – including my own!

Strategy 4: Start Early

It can be hard for an academic to respond with lightning speed to the daily news and formulate a well-crafted 800-word article in less than 24 hours. I know. Luckily, you don’t have to.

The other strategy is to predict the future. Think about an OpEd you would like to write. Write it. Then, wait for something to happen in the news that relates directly to your OpEd.

For example, if you work on immigration policy, write an OpEd now. Then, wait for Congress to debate the next big bill. Or, if you work on climate change, write your OpEd and wait for an international forum to happen to submit the OpEd. In many cases, you can write an OpEd which can have many possible ledes.

The good thing about this strategy is that you can recycle your OpEd if it is not accepted. If the New York Times doesn’t publish it, you can revise it, wait for the next major event to happen and send it to the Washington Post.

Over the past few years, I have realized that I am not alone among academics who want to reach a broader audience. As I have had some success in this area, I have realized that strategy can be crucial for success here. Thus, I share these tips with you.

I look forward to hearing your tips and success stories in the comments.