Letter to the Editor
A letter you write to a newspaper commenting on a current news story being addressed by the paper. The letter may criticize some aspect of the paper’s coverage or bring additional context to a particular story. It may also respond to a previously published letter. Letters to the editor appear on the opposite editorial pages and are one of the most highly read segments of the paper.
When you want to comment on a current story and/or its coverage without mediation and an op/ed piece isn’t warranted (because you don’t have enough to say on the matter; because you don’t think they’ll print an op-ed piece from you; or because you don’t have enough time to research and write one).
Tips on writing a letter to the editor from Human Rights Watch (HRW) – www.hrw.org/community/action/lettertoeditor.htm
An op-ed is an opinion piece written by a non-journalist on the page facing the editorial page. It is a way to present your comments with minimal mediation or interpretation by the paper itself. Op-eds state the conclusion first, make the strongest point up front, and build a case. An op-ed is personal and conversational. It may include facts not commonly found in mainstream media.
When is it used?
An op-ed is used to express an opinion on an issue that is buzzing in the public domain. Op-eds are generally longer, more researched and more authoritative than letters to editors. There is correspondingly more competition for space. Call the paper for length requirements (usually 600-800 words). Use a catchy title. Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom. If the paper doesn’t publish your op-ed, you can modify it and submit it as a letter to the editor, if it is still timely. Inform the editor that you are resubmitting your op-ed as a letter to the editor.
Tips on how to write an op-ed & how to communicate with journalists from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) - www.fair.org/index.php?page=122
Will Writing to the Media Actually Make a Difference?
“If media outlets get letters from a dozen people raising the same issue, they will most likely publish one or two of them. So even if your letter doesn't get into print, it may help another one with a similar point of view get published. Surveys of newspaper readers show that the letters page is among the most closely read parts of the paper. It's also the page policy-makers look to as a barometer of public opinion.”
*Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
As we depend on various forms of media to find out what is happening locally and globally, media undoubtedly influences our beliefs, and is a key component of democracy. Over the last 30 years media consolidation has become big business. Most of the mainstream media is now owned by a small handful of corporations. While this has certain advantages, it is in our interest as citizens to be critical of what we read, see and hear, keeping in mind the following questions:
- Who / what are the sources? Who owns this source of media? What are their interests?
- Is the language loaded?
- How are women and people of color portrayed in the media?
- From whose point of view is the news reported?
- How much do advertisers influence the media?
- Is there a lack of context? Do the headlines and stories match?
- Is sensationalism being used?
In addition to accessing mainstream media sources (The Globe and Mail, National Post, Vancouver Sun, Global TV, CBC, CTV, BBC, etc…) here are some alternative and/or independent news sources:
- Democracy Now - democracynow.org
- The New Internationalist – newint.org
- The Guardian - guardian.co.uk
- Human Security Report Project - hsrgroup.org
- The Epoch Times - en.epochtimes.com
- The Tyee - thetyee.ca
- COA (a portal to independent news media) - coanews.org
Resources for Learning More about Media Democracy
- Campaign for Democratic Media - democraticmedia.ca
- Media Democracy Day - mediademocracyday.org
- Free Press - freepress.net
- MediaChannel - mediachannel.org
- The State of the News Media 2008 - stateofthenewsmedia.org/2008
- Indymedia article on media ownership - la.indymedia.org/news/2003/04/47530.php
- The Nation (chart of the 10 largest media corporations and their holdings) thenation.com/special/bigten.html