Guidelines For Writing Letters To The Editor
The letters to the editor section of your local newspaper presents an ideal forum for getting your message to a broader audience, whether you’re trying to influence local citizens or legislators. More people read the letters to the editor (LTE) section than any other part of the newspaper except the front page. Writing a letter to the editor is easy. Here are a few guidelines for getting your letter printed.
- Editors prefer to publish timely, concise letters that respond to an article, editorial, or other letter that appeared in the newspaper. They also prefer to run letters about issues of local importance and interest.
- Before writing your letter, review the newspaper's policy on letters to the editor, which is frequently found on the newspaper's website under the Opinion section. Also, look for guidelines on how to submit a letter online or through email.
- Keep your letter short and to the point – 250 words maximum.
- Be mindful about accuracy and avoid personal attacks.
- Refer back to the article/issue that you are commenting on (see examples below), but remember that your letter must stand on its own—not all readers will have seen the original story.
- Limit the number of points you make, and stay on message; likewise, avoid rambling sentences and big words.
- Localize your letter – if relevant, explain how the issue will affect coyotes in your area; editors prefer to run letters about issues of local importance and interest.
- Encourage your family and friends to write letters to the editor about the same issue. If your local paper gets flooded with letters, they are more likely to print them as they will see the issue is a community concern.
- Send letters to weekly community newspapers too. Although their circulation is smaller, these publications may better reach your target audience, and you stand a good chance of getting your letter printed.
- Close with the thought you'd like readers to remember. Instead of focusing your attention on a reporter, editor, or expert who got it wrong, consider the central point you want people reading the letter to take away.
- Ask someone to review your letter to be sure your writing is clear and you are getting your point across.
- Be sure to include your contact information (name, home address, phone number, email address). Many newspapers will only print a letter to the editor after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information, and will usually only print your name and city should your letter be published.
- And don’t be afraid to ask for action – tell readers what you want them to do. This includes your elected officials. You can be sure they read the letters to the editor. By putting their names in the letter and calling for action – a vote, cosponsoring a bill, opposing a proposed management plan – you get their attention fast.
- End your letter by encouraging readers to visit Project Coyote’s website for more information about coyotes (see below): www.ProjectCoyote.org
- Find your local newspaper at www.newspapers.com/usa_news.htm. Click on your state for all the newspapers in your area, their addresses, and links to their websites.
EXAMPLE 1: published in the Casper Star Tribune
EXAMPLE 2: published in the South Pasadena Review, February 25, 2009:
MONEY SPENT WOULD BE BETTER EDUCATING VISITORS
Letter to the Editor: Killing coyotes to reduce their populations is futile.
We know when coyote populations are suppressed they quickly rebound, often coming back in greater numbers.
Despite this scientific knowledge, institutions like The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino continue to hire a private trapper to indiscriminately snare and kill coyotes twice a year in the name of “public safety.” While this assures job security for the trapper and allows The Huntington to assure local residents that they’re safe from Big Bad Predators, this approach is ill-conceived, short-sighted, ecologically-unsound, and ethically indefensible.
Love or hate them, coyotes are here to stay and we must find ways to coexist. Money spent paying trapper Jimmie Rizzo to kill coyotes would be better spent educating visitors and the community to reduce conflicts. For more information: www.ProjectCoyote.org
Camilla H. Fox
Director, Project Coyote
Re: Greenwood Village kills six coyotes May 18, 2009
Dear Letters Editor:
The coyote controversy in Greenwood Village raises fundamental questions about coyote management at the local and state level. In a recent meeting with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), one of us (MB ), who has studied coyotes for nearly four decades, joined representatives from WildEarth Guardians and HSUS to discuss overall coyote management issues in Colorado. At this meeting, it was emphasized that there really isn't any detailed information about the social behavior or population dynamics of coyotes on the front range of Colorado and that these data are essential for understanding coyote ecology and behavior to reduce negative encounters. While the CDOW does not control municipal approaches to coyote management, they have oversight over the species at a state level and heavily influence public perception and local management.
Killing coyotes is an ineffective, ecologically unsound, and ethically indefensible approach to mitigate real or perceived human/pet-coyote conflicts. Money spent on killing coyotes would be better spent on implementing a proactive, long-term approach to coyote management that emphasizes public awareness, reduction in coyote attractants, building tolerance and using hazing techniques for habituated coyotes. Greenwood Village’s neighbor- Centennial – has done just this and is not experiencing the kinds of coyote issues Greenwood is experiencing. Maybe it’s time Greenwood took a few lessons in urban wildlife management from its neighbor.
Camilla H. Fox,
Founding Director, Project Coyote
Marc Bekoff, Ph.D,
University of Colorado, Boulder
Advisory Board, Project Coyote