How to Write Letters to Editors

This information is provided by an exceptional Chapter Leader in NY, a very committed Leader and true ACTIVIST. Thanks Allan!   

Are you afraid to write Letters To  The Editor?

 

Do you write Letters, but they’re “never”  published?

 

Are you worried that your published Letters just aren’t  effective in swaying opinions?

 

CAMERA (Commitee for Accuracy in Middle  East Reporting in America) has just published an excellent guide for its  E-Mail Letter-Writing Teams. I’ve taken the liberty of making a few changes in  their material and forwarding it for your guidance. While CAMERA writes  specifically about Israel, please understand that these guidelines apply to  any subject, and most especially to ACT!

 

Every newspaper that prints  Letters To The Editor (and this is one the most frequently-read sections  in any paper!) gives its own “how-to” submission information. Most  prefer electronic submissions these days.

 

Letters To The Editor is one  of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Use it! Once you’ve written a few  – even if they’re not published – you’ll get in the habit of doing it. And  they do have a real effect!

 

We are all in the habit of “preaching to  the choir” too much. Let’s make our voices heard to the rest of the country! (  – Allan)

 

CAMERA:

 

I’d like to share with you some  thoughts on how to quickly write an effective letter-to-the-editor that will  get published. The most common mistakes I see are that some letters are (1)  much too long, (2) hard for non-experts to understand, and/or (3)  inadvertently reinforce anti-Israel attitudes.

 

Letters-to-the-editor  are a special form of communication. The goal is to educate members of the  public who aren’t solidly anti-Israel or solidly pro-Israel. What one writes  in a hundred word letter for publication is not what one would write in an  op-ed, in an alert to activists or in a detailed letter meant only to be read  by the reporter or editor.

 

Keep it simple. By limiting each letter to  one clear message, it will be more “sticky,” that is, it will be more likely  to stick in the reader’s mind. It will also be more likely to be published,  because the letters editor will not need to spend time shortening it. (Help  him do his job; he’ll reward you with a published letter! – Allan)

 

Too  often, letter-writers repeat the anti-Israel allegation they are writing to  refute. However, repeating the allegation only serves to reinforce the  association between Israel and the defamatory allegation. For example, if the  public reads a series of letters that include the phrase “Israel does not  target civilians,” this inadvertently plants in people’s minds the erroneous  idea that Israel targets civilians. Better to state in the positive that  “Hamas terrorists target Israeli civilians, while Israel targets terrorists  and does its best to safeguard civilians on both sides.” This refutes the  allegation without having to actually mention it.

 

Below are some basic  letter-writing tips and Internet resources. Please give them a test-drive and  I think you’ll find that it’s much easier to write a letter, less  time-consuming, and more likely that it will get published and remembered by eaders.

 

Letter-Writing Tips and Strategies For Getting  Published

 

1) Be prompt, persistent, and go on the  offensive. Respond to unfair reporting while the issue is still fresh in  the minds of the journalists and their audience. It’s best to send your letter  the same day or within a day or two, but within a week is acceptable. Aside  from responding/defending, it’s vital that you also regularly send in  proactive letters that go on the offensive (e.g. remind public about  Palestinian atrocities against Israelis…give examples of Arab leaders  denouncing America, committing human rights abuses against their own  people…write about the latest Palestinian TV show that teaches kids to hate  and kill Americans, Jews, Danes.

 

2) Do not restate the  inaccuracies of the article in question. Doing so only gives the  anti-Israel propaganda more exposure and makes it more memorable. Refer to  them not at all or only vaguely and briefly as a launch for your own points,  e.g. “Smith’s one-sided article on Jerusalem was long on Palestinian opinions,  but short on vital context.” Remember to state your argument in a  positive voice. For example, don’t write: “Israel is not an apartheid state.”  Instead, write it this way: “Similar to America, Israel is a multi-cultural  democracy with full rights and freedoms for all its citizens, no matter what  their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Arabs serve in the Israeli  legislature and army, and women and men are free to dress and worship in  whatever way they choose.”

 

3) Be concise. Check to see what your paper’s word limit is and stick to it.  Editors tend to publish letters they don’t have to spend time shortening.  Think of a one-sentence message and just add one or two more sentences to  further explain your point. Short and snappy letters tend to get  published!

 

4) Go on the offensive but also express compassion for both  sides and a desire for peace. It’s important to write frequent letters  about Palestinian extremism, rejectionism and violence. But end such a letter  on a note of compassion and a desire for peace for both sides, e.g. “If  Palestinian society reformed itself and chose to share at least some of  Israel’s and America’s basic values of freedom, pluralism and respect for  life, there would be a more hopeful and peaceful future for Palestinian and  Israeli children .” You are more persuasive when you are perceived as the  voice of reason, not animosity.

 

5) Limit your topic. While an article or broadcast may contain numerous instances of bias, focus on  just one. It’s better to fully explain one point than to inadequately cover  five.

 

6) Keep in mind who your  audience is. Write in a way that will resonate with them. For example,  if writing to a college newspaper, write about progressive issues (e.g. Hamas  is anti-gay, anti-women’s rights) that students care about.

 

7) Do not  use jargon or historical terms that many will be unfamiliar with, such as  Judenrein, PA or madrassah. If you use such words, explain what they are, e.g.  “Palestinians demand that any territory they rule be Judenrein (ethnically  cleansed of Jews).”

 

8) Hostile or ad hominen rants are counterproductive. And while it’s good to aim for an emotional response  from the reader, don’t go overboard. For example, if talking about the impact  of terror, tell the personal story of a terror victim, but don’t get too  graphic about the gore.

 

9) If you need factual information, get it from reliable sources.  Search Google or CAMERA’s Web site http://www.camera.org/ using key words. If you cannot find the info there, call the CAMERA office,  consult AIPAC http://www.aipac.org/ or the nearest Israeli  Consulate. For other historical info, go to the Zionism and Israel Info Center  Web site: http://www.zionism-israel.com/site_map.htm or the Jewish Virtual Library’s Israel section:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/israel.html.

 

(The  very worst thing you can do is give inaccurate information! Double check every fact or statement.  When appropriate, mention your authoritative source: “As revealed in  yesterday’s State Department Memo….” Don’t, however, give footnotes. This  isn’t a formal report.  – Allan)

 

10) Write as a concerned  individual. Mentioning that you are responding to an organized request for Letters may lessen the impact of your letter.

 

11) Maximize  the impact. Send a copy of your letter not just to the editor, but  also to the reporter, foreign editor, publisher…to advertisers/sponsors of  the broadcast…to congressional reps if the report was on public radio or  television…When writing to a syndicated columnist, be sure to send a copy to  the paper the columnist works for, as well as to your local paper if the  column appears there.

 

12) Follow-up! [This is a rarely-used but  very valuable technique!] If your letter is not published the next  day, call the editor of the Letters-to-the-Editor page to ask if your letter  will be published. If the answer is no, tell him “as a learning exercise to  improve my writing skills for future letters, can you please tell me why this  letter was likely not chosen? What could I have done to make it more  publishable?” If the editor doesn’t remember your letter, offer to read it  over the phone and/or re-email it. If your letter is published, make your name  more memorable by writing a note to the editor thanking him/her for allowing  your concerns to be shared with the public.

 

13) Include your daytime  phone number. Before publishing a letter, most papers will call to verify that  you wrote it. They don’t care if you are paraphrasing someone else’s work or  if someone ghostwrote the letter for you. Due to past lawsuits, they just want  to make sure that someone hasn’t played a prank on you by putting your  name on a letter you disagree with. Remember, particularly if you’re using  e-mail, to include your full name, address and daytime phone number. (If  writing on behalf of ACT!, mention your title or position, as appropriate! –  Allan)

 

ACT! Members: Improve The Impact! Send copies of  your published letters to all other chapters and ACT! National leadership.  Publish it on your chapter blog. Print it in your chapter hand-outs. Multiply  its value.

 

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What You Can Do To Counter  Unfair Reporting

 

1. STAY INFORMED

 

To find in-depth  coverage of what’s really happening in Israel, spend at least 10 minutes a day  at one or two of the following Web sites:

 

The Daily Alert from the JCPA  

http://www.dailyalert.org/ 

Ynet News

http://www.ynetnews.com 

The Jerusalem Post  

http://www.jpost.com/ 

IMRA

http://www.imra.org.il/ 

CAMERA

http://www.camera.org/ 

Eye on the UN

http://www.eyeontheun.org/ 

UN Watch

http://www.unwatch.org/ 

Stand With Us

http://www.standwithus.com/ 

NGO Monitor

http://www.ngomonitor.org/ 

MEMRI

http://www.memri.org/ 

Palestinian Media Watch

http://www.pmw.org.il/ 

Israel Beyond the  Conflict

http://www.israel21c.org/ 

 

Useful sites  for historical info: 

Zionism and Israel Info Center:

http://www.zionism-israel.com/site_map.html  

Jewish Virtual Library’s Israel section:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/israel.html 

 

2. CONTACT THE MEDIA

 

As soon as you hear a one-sided,  inaccurate report or unfair report, pick up the phone and call the news  organization. It only takes a minute! If it was inaccurate, explain the error  and ask that it be publicly corrected. If it was one-sided, state that the  report was not objective, that it favored the Palestinians or was harshly  anti-Israel. If you can, provide some details. Were only pro-Palestinian  opinions represented? Were pro-Israeli opinions minimal or nonexistent? Was  the report skewed by the use of terms or language associated with only one  side’s perspective? Was key information missing (lack of context)? Did the  reporter editorialize in what was supposed to be an objective news story? If  you are unable to make a phone call, write a letter. Let CAMERA know about the  issue and your response to it: 

letters@camera.org

 

You can find  most media organizations’ contact information by doing a Google search http://www.google.com/ using the news organization’s name as keyword, and then, once you get to  their website, looking for the “contact us” link. Or go to CAMERA’s website,  look on the left-side column and click on “Contact the Media.” Also, in most  of our e-mail alerts, we include a lengthy media contact list.

 

3.  SPREAD THE WORD

 

Post comments on blogs, Internet discussion  boards, and in the “post a comment” section after online news articles. Talk  with your family and friends about events in Israel and emphasize that much of  the media coverage has been distorted, damaging public understanding of events  at this critical time. Give examples to raise their awareness of the  disturbing problem of media bias. Forward alerts to them. Educate and organize  members of your community (youth groups, synagogue and church social action  committees, sisterhood/brotherhood groups, Hadassah chapters, patriotic and  veterans groups, etc.) to call the media to protest inaccurate and unfair  reporting. (Form a local letter-writing committee within your ACT! Chapter. – Allan)

 

4. SUPPORT CAMERA BY KEEPING MEMBERSHIP  CURRENT

 

Support our ongoing efforts to promote fair and factual  coverage of Israel. If you are not already a member, become one. Tell your  family and friends about us! All members receive CAMERA Media Reports and  CAMERA’s Media Directory, which lists the email, address, fax, and phone  number for all the major news media. To join or renew your membership, call 617-3672 or go to http://www.camera.org/ and click on “Join/Contribute” in the menu on the left side.

 

5. ENCOURAGE GOOD  WRITERS TO JOIN E-MAIL TEAM!

 

If you know someone who cares about Israel  and is a good thinker/writer, help us recruit him/her for CAMERA’s E-Mail  Team. Please send us his/her name, email address, city, state and phone number  to letters@camera.org. We will send him/her  a letter with information about our E-mail Team, and invite him to join. He/she doesn’t need to be a CAMERA member to be on our E-Mail Team, but of  course membership is always appreciated.

 

WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER UNFAIR REPORTING, DON’T JUST  GET UPSET, TAKE ACTION!

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