Interested in writing LTEs? Read on:
As Democrats, we believe strongly in a set of core values. For example, we want to protect our environment and support our public schools. We believe workers should be able to have collective bargaining rights, and we advocate for every woman’s right to make personal choices about her own body. Democrats value family farms, and we are passionate about ensuring that every person is respected, valued, and treated equitably.
We are committed to these ideals, and yet sometimes we struggle in knowing how each of us individually can make a difference.
Let’s face it: We can’t all be candidates, nor can we all work at fundraising booths. For various reasons we may not be able to canvass door to door. Many of us are not tech savvy enough to amass a huge following on Tik Tok or Instagram.
But there’s one thing that each of us has that we can use to truly make a positive impact in Franklin County and beyond:
We have a voice, and we should use it.
One way to start using your voice is to write Letters to the Editor (LTEs) in local newspapers. If you’ve never done it before, it may feel a bit daunting. But after your first submission and you see your thoughts in print, you’ll be asking yourself why you waited so long to speak up.
Former Democratic candidate for HD 118 and current Valle Township Democratic Committeewoman Barb Marco has a lot of experience writing LTEs in neighboring Jefferson County. She’s written up some great tips to help us get started, and she’s graciously agreed to share them with us. Here they are, in Barb’s own words:
I started writing letters to the editor after Trump was elected in 2016. I had to do something to mitigate my rage, fear, disappointment, feeling of helplessness, and bewilderment. My first letter led with “I’m mad as Hell at the Evangelicals” and ended with “washing the scales out of your eyes”. I really didn’t think it would get printed but it felt good just to let it out. The editor called and explained that they get 2 types of letters: conservative and ultra-conservative. Would I please continue to write? I’ve had many conversations with the editor over the years and she is a conservative Baptist. Being a journalist, she also sought the truth. And, when I decided to run for office, the newspaper endorsed me and not my conservative opponent because I had fostered a relationship. Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years.
Practical Tips for Writing & Submitting LTEs
- One subject at a time. It’s easy to put too much into your letter and lose the point.
- Keep it simple. Write at a 5th grade level. A large population cannot read past a 5th grade level and is considered functionally illiterate.
- The shorter the better. I find that my shorter letters are printed more frequently than the longer letters. Find ways to rewrite what you said using the fewest words possible. One of the most beneficial exercises that I learned in English class was to rewrite the same sentence in as many ways as I could.
- List your sources. Our editor has called and asked where I got some of my information. To save her the trouble, I list my sources at the bottom of the submission.
- Use reliable sources. Make sure your facts are accurate and up to date.
- Facts are boring and Republicans don’t care about facts. Don’t fill your letter with too many facts.
- Speak from the heart.
- Write as though you are speaking to a persuadable audience. Missouri used to vote Democratic and those people are still out there. Forget about the Trump loyalists.
- If you are a frequent writer, you will develop a following. And, you will become a subject of ridicule. Don’t bother rebutting the critics. Keep on message and don’t waste your valuable words responding. Just know that you struck a nerve and made a conservative “think”.
- Editors may sit on your submission for weeks. Just because it isn’t printed immediately doesn’t mean that they didn’t like it.
- Editors don’t like being second. If you submit a letter, don’t put it on social media before they print it.
I once wrote a letter about abortion that listed various denominations and their stance. Baptists had once condoned abortion and then switched to pro-life. The editor was afraid they would get a rock thrown thru their window (happened in the past), so she toned it down and did print it, because I had the facts from a reliable source. Editors will edit and change some of your sentences.
Our editor picks the number of liberal vs. conservative letters printed by the number received. So, tell your liberal leaning friends to write every week. I made Sunday morning my letter writing time, after watching all the Sunday morning shows. Heather Cox Richardson (an historian and professor) writes a daily summary of the political events. You can get her Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give it a try! I would be happy to proof-read. Eventually, you won’t need anyone else’s opinion.
Where and How to Submit LTEs in Missouri
If you would like to give it a try and submit your Letters to the Editor locally and eventually across the state, here is a link that should come in handy: Submit LTEs
There are so many ways each of us can help make a positive difference. While each of us has different experiences, backgrounds, and skills, we can each use our voice. Let’s get started.
Photo Credit: WritingAboutWriting.net