Letters to the Editor: Why Print Media Still Matters

Laura Ochoa, RESULTS Publications and Content Manager
July 01, 2011

Advocacy is an essential part of the work we do at RESULTS, and change occurs when our thoughts and opinions turn from a whisper to a shout. On a grassroots level, this means not only educating your community about what we can do locally and globally to fight the worst effects of poverty, but also creating the political will to effect real change through legislation. As the former deputy press secretary for a high-profile U.S. Senator, I will tell you firsthand that congressional offices closely follow print media in their states or districts. So, this week as we ask you to write letters to the editor or opinion-editorials to your local papers, know that these do make a difference.

By writing a letter or op-ed to your local paper, you are highlighting relevant issues for members of your community who might not have known about the issue, or the tangible ways in which we can fix it.  You may unknowingly be recruiting new grassroots volunteers, passionate about the cause, but who now have resources through RESULTS to get involved.

It is also essential to call on members of Congress – by name – to hold them accountable for their actions. If you think your letter or op-ed is not being read, you’re wrong. It is how those in Washington keep a finger on the pulse of Constituents’ wants and needs.  These letters and op-eds in your local paper are compiled by Congressional staffers and usually handed directly to your member of Congress. If you are calling him or her by name, that Representative or Senator knows everyone in their community has seen this, and may be more likely to take action.

So let’s keep them honest.  If your member of Congress pledged support to an issue or piece of legislation during lobby week, follow up.  Make sure your legislator is doing what he or she agreed to do.  If you have yet to reach out, now is your chance.  A letter to the editor or op-ed is not just effective, it’s free and requires only moments of your time.

And in this global, high-tech world, your one letter or op-ed isn’t just reaching your local community; most newspapers have online components – a website and archive, blog, Facebook, or Twitter – where your single letter or op-ed can now reach literally anyone. So if you your letter is printed, distribute it widely and link to it as much as possible.  The ripple effect can be endless.

Again, let’s turn our whispers into a shout, educate our communities, and hold members of Congress accountable.  Please write to your local paper; it matters, and it could make all the difference.