Make it a habit to write a letter to the editor every month. You can be a voice for justice. Here’s how.
An important part of our legislative and election strategy is to educate the public about issues and candidates we care about. Most of the public won’t read our bill summaries or subscribe to our blog for more in-depth analysis of issues. So we have to continuously build and expand the number of folks who do pay attention, and engage, educate, organize, and activate them.
To support that effort, on Saturdays the Retake blog features The Pen is Mightier than the Sword. Each Saturday, we offer two writing topics and encourages you to write letters on one or both of the topics and send them to the media outlet in your community, post it on Facebook, and/or to send it to friends. It is a way for you to establish a routine of activism.
The guide below includes a brief description of how to write a good letter from one of our volunteers who is experienced in media relations. At the bottom of the summary are two sample letters to the editor followed by a list of the ten largest publications throughout the state with links and guidelines about how to write letters to those newspapers.
TIPS FOR WRITING LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (LTEs)
- Stay within the maximum number of words listed by the media outlet.
- Focus on one issue and make your most important point in the beginning.
- Start with a snappy lead sentence that grabs the readers’ attention.
- If you have personal or professional experience on the topic, include it. How will the bill affect you, your child, your business, your community? Make it personal, tell a story. A letter that begins, “When my mother was diagnosed with cancer I learned how complex, expensive, and cruel our health-care system is,” will get an editor’s attention.
- Include a reference to an LTE or Opinion piece you read if it spurred your LTE, e.g., “After reading Mr. Smith’s LTE, Fight Crime, (SFNM, 5/22/19, p.1), I want to add…”
- Support your point with evidence (research, personal story, recent events).
- Submit your letter via the form provided by the media outlet on their website or by regular email; some accept snail mail if you lack access to email.
- Always include your contact info: name, address, phone, email address. If they can’t verify who you are, they won’t print your LTE.
- Don’t be discouraged if your LTE isn’t published; they have many reasons that have nothing to do with your letter. However, they do notice how many they get on a single topic.
- If they print your LTE about an upcoming event, send a short thank you to the paper about the success of the event and tell them about other ways they can help….another event coming up?
Sample # 1: I urge my NM state representatives to vote in support of House Bill 51 that Decriminalizes Abortion in New Mexico, an inactive anti-abortion law from 1969 that would become active if the US Supreme Court, now very conservative, repeals Roe v Wade. Recent polls indicate that 70% of New Mexicans oppose the reinstatement of punitive anti-abortion laws and believe the women of our state should make that decision for themselves. The US and New Mexico have some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among developed nations. Instead of forcing more women, especially poor women, to have more children, creating additional poverty for them and their children, we should focus our efforts on family planning. By increasing women’s access to reproductive healthcare, education, and job training, we can improve economic conditions for them and for our state as well as reduce the number of abortions. 146 words
Susan McGrew, Retake Our Democracy
Sample # 2: Kudos to Retake Our Democracy for compiling and authoring the 2019 NM Legislative Report Card! It praises legislators who worked tirelessly to pass critical legislation and exposes the dim reality of what other NM legislators did and where their allegiances lie. The Report presents a shocking revelation of what goes on behind the scenes, who controls choosing the bills slated for survival and those earmarked to be cast aside, buried alive, never to be heard before a committee. The fact that our bipartisan legislative leadership thinks it’s permissible to exercise their will, backed by corporate lobbyists, versus the will of the people, is an abuse and misuse of the power they have been entrusted with. It’s far more disturbing finding out which Democratic lawmakers sided with Republicans, to block, manipulate and predetermine the fate of advancing economic, climate/ environmental justice and other socially-conscious bills. Read the results at retakeourdemocracy.org. 149 words
Joyce Bogosian, Retake Our Democracy
Inventory of Media Outlets
If a daily or weekly newspaper published in your community, please write to email@example.com and we will include it in this developing list. Wherever a newspaper requires submitting in a form, we recommend you craft your letter or op-ed in a word processing program and then copy and paste your finished product. And, to reiterate one of the primary points above, your personal reasons for supporting a bill or for promoting Retake are much more likely to be published and much more likely to have an impact on readers.
- Albuquerque Journal. 350 words for letter to the editor, 650 words for my view. Letters must include writer’s signature, home address and telephone, and a daytime number. Though addresses and phone numbers are not published, they are needed to confirm authorship prior to publication.
- Santa Fe New Mexican. The link takes you to a form to be used for submitting a letter (150 words) or My View (600 words)
- The Daily Times. The Daily Times covers the Four Corners, including Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield and the Navajo Nation. Send your 250-word (or less) letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have more to say? Write us a Local Voices column at a maximum of 500 words. Columns of local or statewide interest get first consideration.
- The Gallup Independent. Letters may not exceed 500 words. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. The Independent may choose not to print any letter for any reason. Letters may be mailed, delivered in person, faxed or emailed to: Editor, The Independent, P.O. Box 1210, Gallup, NM 87305, fax: 505-722-5750; email: email@example.com.
- Las Cruces Sun-News. We are Las Cruces’ online and print resource providing information for the audience and the most comprehensive news coverage in southern New Mexico.
- Letters must be 300 words or less to be considered for publication.
- Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, ZIP code and phone number for verification purposes.
- Please allow 14 days between letters.
Roswell Daily Record. The link takes you to a form where you can submit a letter. There were no word limits posted, but email and phone contact info was provided at this link where clarification can be sought.
Silver City Daily Press & Independent. Letters can be mailed to Box 1371, Silver City, NM 88062, or submitted using the form below.Because of space limitations, we prefer short letters on topics of concern to Grant County residents which are less than 250 words in length. Longer submissions may be rejected or considered for publication as a guest column. This is done so that we can publish the maximum number of letters, and everyone has equal access to the letters column.
Hobbs News-Sun. Covering Lea County and southeast New Mexico. For questions regarding letters to the editor in the Hobbs News-Sun, email the editor.
Carlsbad, Artesia and All of Eddy County
Carlsbad Current-Argus. Serving as the local news source for Carlsbad, Artesia, Loving, and all of Eddy County, New Mexico, since 1889. The link above takes you to a page where letters and guest articles can be posted.
Alamogordo Daily News. No guidelines were posted on the paper’s website, but contact information for the editor is: Duane Barbati, Editor. (575) 437-7120 ext.7134. firstname.lastname@example.org