Tips for Publishing Op-Eds and Letters

Pro-nuclear op-eds and letters-to-the-editor reach a large audience.  While many newspapers do indeed  struggle with decreasing circulations, newspapers such as the Mercury News of San Jose California have daily circulation figures around 500,000, according to the latest data I can find.  Getting a pro-nuclear op-ed in such a high-circulation paper widens the positive view of nuclear energy. Hundreds of thousands of people will see the op-ed, and many will read it.

A good op-ed breaks the assumption that “everyone” is against nuclear power.

Stephen Williams  wrote an op-ed which ran in the Mercury News on July 10: 100 percent renewable energy in California by 2050 needs nuclear in the mix. His op-ed is a clear, concise argument for nuclear power, and against the false reassurances that “renewables can do it all.” I urge you to read his article and comment on it!  Meanwhile, here is Stephen’s description of writing op-eds, and getting them published.

Publishing Op-Eds.  By Stephen Williams

Op-Eds are a part of advocacy: After retiring from software engineering a few years ago, I was delighted with my newfound time to explore other interests. One interest I had was to somehow get involved in addressing climate change. Little did I know then that I’d end up advocating for nuclear power as an important part of our strategy to ameliorate climate change.

One thing I’ve discovered in the past year is that writing opinion pieces for newspapers is one effective way that I can advocate for nuclear power. At first I wasn’t sure my local paper would have any interest in what I had to say.

Getting them published: Now I’ve had two opinion pieces published in The Mercury News in one year. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve done right, but I’d like to share how I approached getting published in case my experience is useful to others.

Start with a news event: I try to use some recent news event to write about nuclear power. I email my piece to the editorial page editor respectfully requesting publication. My experience so far is that I don’t get an initial response.

Follow up: So a couple days later I respond to my own email and point the editor at some recent article that’s related to my piece. Sometimes I even do this a second time if I don’t hear back from the editor. The editor replies at this point and tells me what’s wrong with the piece.

Edit it and say thank you. I rewrite the piece making sure to address all the editor’s criticisms, then reply thanking the editor for her excellent feedback (which it really is) and attaching the new version.

This mostly works: This technique has failed for me once and worked out twice over the past year. I think the take-away for me is to be nicely persistent, at least until you get a response.

Notes from Meredith Angwin

My experience is that the first op-ed is the hardest.  Once you are established as an op-ed writer with a particular editor, getting the second op-ed published is much easier.

I have more information on getting letters and op-eds published in several chapters of my book, Campaigning for Clean Air.   Of course, I encourage you to buy it!

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