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Guidelines for Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

Opinion Piece and Article Submission Criteria for Major Newspapers and News Magazines

Following is a survey of guidelines for submitting opinion pieces, articles and letters to the editor to 21 major newspapers and newsmagazines around the country.

If you would like to submit an article, opinion piece or letter to the editor, my colleagues and I in the Office of Communications would be happy to provide editorial assistance to help improve your chances of publication. We are available to provide advice on the selection of an appropriate venue and framing a "newsworthy" commentary as well as for proofreading and editorial services.

If, instead of submitting an opinion piece, you would like to serve as an expert resource on a breaking issue (to convey important information, allay public concern or counter opinion or information you've heard in the media), I can assist you with that as well.

Tips to increase success

  • Make a strong argument and carry it through to the end. In the words of an L.A. Times editor, 'if you don't want to wrestle with the tiger/issue, you have no reason to write.'" From the Chronicle of Higher Education: "Articles should adopt a clear point of view, not simply review both sides of a debate. In most cases, they benefit from the inclusion of specific recommendations for ways to solve the problems they outline."
  • Strong opinions about issues in the news have the best chance for publication. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 80 percent of all features have one of the following four themes: something is or is not so; something is or is not good or worthy and why; something specific should or should not be done and why; or something will or will not happen as a result of X.
  • Capture the reader's attention in the first sentence and keep it throughout with a strong argument. That is the one piece of advice I have heard from Opinion Editors around the country. In other words of USA Today, submissions most likely to be successful "deal in an incisive compelling way with issues at the top of the news or those that report unseen trends or other aspects of our culture."
  • A premium is placed on compelling writing and skill at story telling.
  • Publications generally look for a fact-based approach to arguing a point of view or a compelling insider's view to an issue in the news. Using a personal experience can make a story more compelling.
  • Great opinion pieces have good last lines.
  • Catchy headlines always help. (Example: "Did you? Did you? Did you?" for an opinion about a study on nagging; "A Failure of Democracy, Not Capitalism" on the real reason behind corporate malfeasance; "The Reaganites Strike Back" which started "If President Bush goes to war against Iraq, he'll be abandoning traditional Republican foreign policy"; and "Our Neglect of Western Hemisphere is Justified," which seems likely to start a few arguments.)
  • Your chances for publication increase in smaller papers (i.e. beyond the Los Angeles Times and New York Times)
  • Writing letters to the editor, always including your affiliation with Pomona, and providing expert opinion to reporters are great ways of increasing your visibility to members of a newspapers editorial board. As a regular contributor, they would more likely to consider a future opinion piece or even call you direct to solicit a piece.

What to include

For all submissions, be sure to include a cover letter with your name, day and evening phone numbers, mailing address, email address, title and Pomona College association.

Submission Format

All submissions must be typed and double-spaced. Most newspapers prefer to receive submissions via email. When sending pieces by this method, most papers require that you paste your submission into the text of the email.

Please don't hesitate to contact me, at any point in the process, at (909) 607-9660. Lastly, let me know of any successes so that the Office of Communications may include them in appropriate publications and in our media report.

Good luck!
Mark Kendall