Book Excerpt: ‘writing To Persuade: How To Bring People Over To Your Side’
For almost five years, as the person in charge of Op-Ed for The New York Times, I was immersed in argument, in passion, in ideas. I oversaw a dozen editors who read submissions from both the august and the unknown, all eager to be heard. Two assistants, looking for gems, pored over the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts that arrived each week. I too read many pieces, a number so high that I never counted it. There was no time.
I was grateful for that perch, for the chance to know writers and editors who amazed me with their knowledge and creative minds. But I was also surprised by the flood of terrible writing from the famous and successful. Manicured products of Ivy League schools offered tangled sentences and mundane musings. People whose novel ideas deserved a hearing could not escape their jargon long enough to reach an audience.
At first this sea of opinionfrom people eager, desperate even, to get their point across, to enter the flow of argumentwas foreign to me. I had always been a journalist with no case to make, no argument to win. Whether I was reporting or writing or editing, and over the years I did all three, I was happy to absorb the thoughts and feelings of others. I had no interest in presenting my own point of view. I often thought I had no point of view, because early on I recognized a disconcerting tendency to be a chameleon, to use whatever was convenient from my past to make a connection with my subject.
Fifteen Principles of Persuasive Writing
Working With The Oped Project
The OpEd Project is a think tank and leadership organization that accelerates the ideas and impact of underrepresented voices, including women. We are a community of journalists and thought leaders who actively share knowledge, resources and connections across color, creed, class, sexuality, gender and beyond. We have been featured in most major media. We have stunning results. We believe the best ideas, regardless of where they come from, should have a chance to be heard and to change the world.
Where And How To Submit
Everyone wants their piece in The New York Times. Few will ever see it there. Unless you have something super-strong, consider other options. Some national general-interest outlets with a big demand for copy include The Hill, CNN Opinion, Huffington Post,The Daily Beast and Slate. The Conversation specializes in op-ed-type pieces from academics. Is your piece more regional or specialized? Check regional or specialized media. Local papers are always looking for a local angle on wider issues. Publications that cover energy, law or other topics are of course looking for that kind of piece.
If you or someone you know happens to know the opinion editor, you can send directly to him or her. Otherwise, most publications have a web page telling you where to send, and their particular requirements. Dont fret if you dont have an inside line editors really do read those over-the-transom submissions.
Letters to the editor can often be sent in the body of an email. Most op-ed submissions are made in an emailed Word document. For the subject line in either case, that catchy title mentioned earlier will come in handy. If its an op-ed, write the editor a short note in the email body telling her/him what the piece gets at, and why youre the person to get at it. Include your contact info and, if you want, a brief bio.
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Walter Duranty’s Holodomor Coverage And Pulitzer
Walter Duranty, who served as its Moscow bureau chief from 1922 through 1936, has been criticized for a series of stories in 1931 on the Soviet Union and won a Pulitzer Prize for his work at that time however, he has been criticized for his denial of widespread famine, most particularly Holodomor, a famine in Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s in which he summarized Russian propaganda, and the Times published, as fact: “Conditions are bad, but there is no famine”.
In 2003, after the Pulitzer Board began a renewed inquiry, the Times hired , professor of Russian history at Columbia University, to review Duranty’s work. Von Hagen found Duranty’s reports to be unbalanced and uncritical, and that they far too often gave voice to Stalinistpropaganda. In comments to the press he stated, “For the sake of The New York Times’ honor, they should take the prize away.”The Ukrainian Weekly covered the efforts to rescind Duranty’s prize. The Times has since made a public statement and the Pulitzer committee has declined to rescind the award twice stating, “…Mr. Duranty’s 1931 work, measured by today’s standards for foreign reporting, falls seriously short. In that regard, the Board’s view is similar to that of The New York Times itself…”.
How To Pitch Your Oped
For more information, join an OpEd Project public programs in one of our major cities. Details and registration is here.
How do you get someone to listen to you in the first place? How do you establish credibility, capture interest, and convey the immediate relevance of your point of viewquickly and decisively? Pitching can happen in lots of ways, but very often it is done by email.
An effective email pitch answers these basic questions:
Why now? Whats the news hook? Why is this worth reading at this moment?
So what? Why should people care?
Why me? Why am I the best one to write this piece?
A pitch should also include:
Your idea in a few lines
Your credentialsonly those that are relevant
The finished piece pasted below your pitch
Your contact information
Aspects of a successful pitch:
Unexpected point of view
Follow Up: If the editor responds:
Thank your editor. Even if they said no. Remember that no can be the beginning of a conversation that can eventually lead to yes.
If they published you, thank them not for showcasing you but for giving space to the ideas and issues.
Follow Up: If there is no response:
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The New York Times Cancels Op
- NYT Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury announced the change on Monday
- Said the term ‘op-ed’ is an outdated term meaning opposite the editorial page
- Referred to the position of guest opinion pieces in the physical newspaper
- Kingsbury said the new term ‘guest essay’ would be ‘more inclusive’
- It comes following a string of controversies in the paper’s Opinion department
- Opinion Editor James Bennet resigned under pressure over Tom Cotton op-ed
- Staff editor Bari Weiss resigned spectacularly last year, slamming the newspaper
- Columnist Bret Stephens protested after publisher spiked his piece in February
- Stephens had wanted to criticize the firing of health reporter Donald McNeil Jr
+ Cleveland Plain Dealer
Op-eds: Emailed submissions preferred. Email: . Preferred length is 700 words. Op-eds longer/shorter than that will not be considered. Include day phone number. Op-eds not submitted by noon Wednesday may not be reviewed until the week after. Exclusive submissions only. Pieces become property of cleveland.com.
Letters: Submissions over 200 words are not likely to be published. Include full name, address, and telephone number. Online form here — there are also details on how to mail or fax your piece.
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Writing Opeds That Make A Difference
The OpEd Project’s mission is to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world, with a focus on increasing the number of underrepresented voices and thought leaders in influential public forums. The Indivisible Projects mission is to equip locally-led groups across the country with tools to hold their Members of Congress accountable and resist the Trump agenda.
Our missions overlap. We both believe that the right voices speaking up at the right time can have a big impact on decision makers. And we both believe that our democracy is full of untapped expertise and potential.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Writing
Why should we readers trust you?Are you authoritative on your topic? Are you accountable to what you say you know? Can you provide evidence of your expertise? You dont need to have a famous name, a big title, or a fancy degreebut you do need to be well positioned to speak on your topic, and able to convey it.
Can you back up what you say? Is your argument based on evidencesolid material and logical building blocks that will be acknowledged as credible even by those who may disagree with your interpretation?
Whats new?Is your argument different, particularly original in the way it is delivered, or is it backed up by substantially new information or reporting? What is compelling about its contribution to the conversation?
So what?Why should everyone elseincluding those of us who are not experts in your areacare?
Whats the difference between being right and being effective? Does your language tend to write off the people who would disagree with you, or do you employ empathy and respect in the pursuit of changing minds?
How will your ideas and arguments contribute to the conversation, and be helpful to your audience? Do you see your knowledge and experience in terms of its potential value to others?
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How To Get An Op
When I saw last week that The New York Times had published an op-ed by Muammar el-Qaddafi, leader of Libya, it got me thinking. I’ve been submitting opinion pieces to the Times for years without success. I’ve sent in punchy, timely essays on sexual harassment, cosmetic surgery, women and religion, and too many others to mention for fear of embarrassing myself.
Most of the pieces went on to be published elsewhere in respectable newspapers and websites. But from the venerable paper of record, if I’ve been lucky to get any response at all, it has been this: “Dear Ms. Tanenbaum, Many thanks, but I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to get your essay in the paper. Thank you, though, for thinking of Op-Ed.” You’re welcome, and thank you for spelling my name correctly.
I’ve consoled myself with the knowledge that aside from a few high-profile academics and a sprinkling of humor writers, nearly all the contributors to the op-ed page are big-name boys in government and world affairs. If my name never appears on the page, that’s the price I pay for choosing to live a life in which I research and write for a few hours each day, then go pick up the kids at 4:30. Even Senator John McCain couldn’t get his opinion piece — a response to one published by Barack Obama, on his plan for Iraq — in the paper last summer.
On second thought, I can handle the rejections. Thank you, New York Times op-ed page, for helping me put this matter in perspective.
Examples Of Impact From Oped Project Alums
Jill Wine-Banks, an Indivisible member in Chicago, came to an OpEd Project program that was organized by Indivisible Chicago in May 2017. Jill Wine-Banks was one of three assistant special prosecutors who tried Watergate’s obstruction of justice case. She attended the OpEd Project Write to Change the World program the week before James Comey was fired. After the firing, she wrote an op-ed, then worked with an OpEd Project mentor-editor, and was published in the Chicago Tribune about the firing from her unique perspective. Since then, she has appeared on MSNBC regularly, written follow-up commentary, was recently interviewed on the Indivisible Chicago Podcast.
Carrie Scherpelz, an alum of our programs in Chicago, volunteers as a poll worker in Wisconsin. She published an op-ed on Wisconsin’s voter ID laws in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which also got picked up by the USA Today. As a result, she was asked to be a witness in the case challenging these laws. This case is now going to the Supreme Court.
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Highest Paying Media Sites For Freelance Journalists
From left: Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson, ousted executive editor Bill Keller, Abramsons predecessor, who was reportedly paid more than she. Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times via Associated Press June 2011.
A while back, The New Yorker reported the high profile firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Abramson was allegedly let go in part because she demanded more money after she learnt she was being paid less than her predecessors. From the outside, it may appear her ouster was sexist and a harsh and humiliating process to play out in the media, but its hard to say for sure that sexism was at play in this case.
Abramson was reportedly working with a coach to improve her management skillspresumably in response to complaints by Times newsroom staffers who thought she was unapproachable, brusque and condescending. A report on POLITICO indicated she was already on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom before she was fired. It was mumbled that she had become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the newsroom.
We may never know for sure why she was fired, but the firing opened up debate that rages on today about the pay and power gap in the media industry. Economic journalist Felix Salmon wrote a piece on Vox advocating for salary transparency for media workers, a call that freelance writer Manjula Martin has made since 2012 when she started her blog Who Pays Writers?.
What Are My Chances
Most publications want only pieces that play off the news of the last few days, or the week. After that, your letter is a dead one. So, in most cases, is your op-ed. Act fast.
That said, something may be going on below the public radar that should be in the news, but has not surfaced. If you know something, you say something an op-ed can help to break the news. Maybe an invisible threat to public safety, or an unnoticed scientific discovery. Ideally, your topic will be timely, but at the same time have a long shelf life . Occasionally, you may find a peg for your piece: a holiday, anniversary, election, upcoming conference, report, a pending vote in Congress.
In all cases, depending on where you submit, calibrate expectations accordingly. Major publications, especially big dailies like The New York Times, may receive hundreds of op-eds each day, and even more letters to the editor. They will use only a few. In publications with less competition, your odds increase.
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How To Submit An Op
The Op-Ed is a time-honored tradition in the magazine and newspaper industry dating back to the sepia-infused ages of 1970. Well, quite a bit before that if you consider that the original Op-Ed meant anything opinionated written by the editorial staff that appeared on the opposite page of the Editorial column of a newspaper.
Semantics and origin-stories aside, the Op-Ed today stands as one of the most powerful and frequently read columns in any publication. Most major newspapers have Op-Ed columns, which means the website version of those newspapers also have them, which in turns means all major websites that dont have physical newspapers also have them, or are entirely composed of them.
And you want to write one. Good for you. Get ready for a host of rejected submissions and a highly detailed account of your reasons for belief.
These 70+ Publications Pay $1 A Word And Theyre Looking For Writers
Ever been told there are no well-paying markets left for freelancers and that its exceptionally difficult to make a living as a freelance writer?
Im ever-the-optimist because not only have I made a fantastic income from my writing for the 14 years of being a freelance writer, Im also convinced that right now, today, you have more opportunities than ever to make freelancing pay. And pay well.
I have been telling my readers and students for years that they do not have to choose. Its not love or money, its love AND money.
Today, Id like to welcome you to my world, the world of The International Freelancer, where we believe that you should love the work you do, that you should be paid exceptionally well for it, and that you should get to have fun doing it.
But where is all this high-paying work to be found?
We decided to put together a list. These publications pay $1 a word or more OR a minimum flat fee of $500.
This list of 70+ publications is not comprehensive. There are still dozens of publications that we are told pay more than $1 a word, but which we havent been able to independently verify. Weve also left out the email addresses of editors from this blog post to spare them from spam emails, but weve included detailed names and contact information for all the editors in a downloadable pdf.
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+ The Womens Media Center
Op-eds: Pitches should be one to two paragraphs in length. Final commentaries should be about 600-800 words. They are flexible. Submit your pitch online here. They look for stories that are timely and provide a feminist perspective on news events, underrepresented topics, stories that analyze the the medias treatment of women, and stories about women in the media industry.
Letters: Follow these guidelines here.
With the digitization of news, firm circulation numbers are hard to come by. To help you develop an idea of a publications readership, the following are the top 10 U.S. daily news/opinion outlets as of January 2021. Rankings were sourced from Agility PR Solutions and include print and digital circulation.
Circulation, however, does not determine how far your op-ed can go. Many op-eds published in smaller, local outlets have had a significant impact.