Writing an opinion piece in a newspaper
What is it?
It’s when you write an opinion in a newspaper to express your views on a topic of importance.
Why do you do it?
Here are the reasons why you should do it:
- If you feel the debate on the topic in question is unbalanced against your viewpoint and you want to address this.
- If you have an innovative, or interesting view on the topic.
- If you feel that it is an opportunity to get media attention for yourself and your organisation.
- If it is a good opportunity to carve out space for yourself as an opinion former. If you make a breakthrough, you could get more media attention.
How do you do it?
There are two aspects to this. How to place the piece and how to write the piece. Firstly on the placement side:
Every national newspaper has an editor dedicated to the opinion pages. This is the person that you pitch to. You should have a clear call to action in the subject line of the pitch email: “Opinion piece on nn by nn.'' Then you should give a brief synopsis of the piece and outline in a few bullet points what will be in it. You should also list the credentials of the person writing the piece, state why they are suitable, and give a couple of good links to any other articles they have written.
How to write the Piece?
Here are some tips to write a sharp and on-point opinion piece:
Make sure that it’s relevant
You do this by plugging it into a current context at the very outset. It should really be a story that’s on the news agenda now.
Include correct and up to date information
It’s good to have a few, well grounded, statistics, but don’t get bogged down. Too many numbers are a turnoff. Numbers should be there to assist your points. No one will remember your argument if the numbers are your points.
Have some genuine new ideas
OK this is a hard one, but it’s important. What is your solution to the problem? Why is your way a new way to it? Why will it succeed? And how should it happen? Has it been tried somewhere else before and succeeded?
Criticise, but not too much
It’s ok to be critical but have a balance. Pick the right targets to have a go at. Your targets must be responsible for what you’re criticising them for and it must be something serious.
Use some nice phrases
I can’t overstate the importance of this. Can you use some memorable language? Maybe it’s an analogy, maybe it’s a story. These are the pieces of information that get remembered. I once worked for a politician who described a Government plan to build a national football stadium as a “Ceausescu-style project" referring to the former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Needless to say it got loads of media attention.
Use plain English
No long sentences, buzz words or industry language. People just haze over and switch off.
Stick to the format
Check the word count required and don’t go a word over. Proof read it carefully. Everyone loves the person who can deliver clean copy on time.
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