Before Facebook and Twitter, writing to your local newspaper editor was one of the best ways to publicly express your opinion.
Although it may seem old-fashioned, writing (or emailing) the editor is still an effective way to raise local awareness about issues that matter to people in your community. That means it’s an ideal way to share the Blue Dot message.
Letters to the editor are among the most widely read parts of a newspaper, and letters are often published in online versions of the paper or on the paper’s website. Community papers are still one of the best sources of local news and events. Local politicians may also scan the editorial page to find out what’s on their constituents’ minds.
Steps to writing a successful letter
1. Do your homework
Use the Blue Dot website to ensure your information is correct. If you’re writing about a local issue, make sure you have the facts right.
Check out the letters to the editor page of the newspapers you’re sending your letter to. How long are the letters they publish? Find the email address to send them to, or the mailing address if you want to go “old school” (although emailing saves trees).
2. Prepare a draft
Write a draft letter. Don’t hit the send button or lick the envelope right away. Let your draft sit overnight and reread it the next day. You may want to add or delete something, or change the tone. You may have even made a typo or two that you’ll catch when you look at it again with fresh eyes.
3. Write persuasively
Keep these things in mind when writing your letter:
- Be positive and upbeat.
- Clearly identify what Blue Dot is.
- Persuade readers that Blue Dot should matter to them by telling them why it matters to you.
- Don’t ramble; stay on topic.
- Inspire readers to get involved by putting a local spin on Blue Dot. Why is it important to the people in your community?
- Close with a specific call to action; e.g., provide the Blue Dot website so people can sign the petition, ask readers to email local councillors, attend an event, etc.
3. Make it easy for the editor.
Include your first and last name and contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached during the day. Sometimes an editor will call to confirm that your letter is being published. Letters aren’t published without a first and last name attached to them.
If emailing, send your letter in the body of the email, not in a separate attachment. That way you don’t have to worry about whether your letter can be opened, and the editor will appreciate the convenience.
Other reasons to write a letter to the editor
A letter to the editor can be used to send a public thank you or shout-out to your city or town council when they pass a declaration. It’s also a great way to publicly acknowledge and thank Blue Dot supporters and volunteers.
Editing your letter
Although you know you’ve submitted the perfect letter, an editor may disagree. When your letter’s published, it may be different than what you submitted. Unless the facts have been distorted (and if they are, let the editor know!), editing is what editors do.
You did it!
Give yourself a big pat on the back for getting out the Blue Dot message! If your letter isn’t published, don’t be discouraged. There may not have been room to publish all the letters received that week. Keep your eyes and ears open for an environmental issue or event that you can use as a springboard for your next Blue Dot letter to the editor.
A senior editor at Alive magazine, Ellen Niemer leads the Surrey Blue Dot team and was a member of the first Blue Dot team in Richmond, B.C. Her favourite saying is “Go Blue!”