Writing for Newspaper Op-Ed Pages

A Guide To Getting Your Views Published

David Jarmul

You are an expert who has spent years studying an issue of urgent importance to the American people. Now you have a long list of thoughtful recommendations to offer to policy-makers and the public. Or you are a student, parent, business owner or someone else with a point of view that might interest others. How do you get their attention?

One of the best ways is by writing an article for the ''op-ed,'' or commentary, page of a newspaper. An effective article can reach millions of readers, swaying hearts and changing minds. It can reshape a public debate and affect policy. It can bring the author considerable recognition for relatively little effort. But an op-ed article can do these things only if people read it, which means a newspaper must publish it.

This article discusses how to get an op-ed article published. The authors in this book, few of whom had experience writing op-ed articles, succeeded in crafting stories that were accepted for publication by numerous papers across the country. You can do the same. This article focuses on the process of "translating" scientific and academic material for broader audiences, but its advice pertains to anyone seeking to place an op-ed article.

Before racing to your word processor, be aware that the competition for space is intense. Phil Joyce, commentary page editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, says "your chances of getting your unsolicited op-ed piece used are about 30 to 1. With those kinds of odds, you may want to get out of the office and go to the track."1 At The New York Times and The Washington Post, the odds are even greater. Several universities that

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