How do I write a letter to the editor?


a. current and important
b. concise and clear
c. factual
d. authentic
e. our offer - your source
f. summary

Letters to the editor are an effective tool of public relations that should not be underestimated. Many people read them with interest because usually things are discussed in a more critical way than in any other articles.  However, only about the first ten percent of all written letters may be accepted by the press, and with a little luck it could be the that first or second letter that ends up being printed  -  particularly in regional newspapers.  In that case, one should not give up hope. It also depends on many factors, for example how interesting the occasion is. In principle one should imagine being in the newsagents and journalists shoes on busy assignments and take their schedules into consideration.

a. current and important
Newspapers are a medium for current affairs. So do not take too much time before submitting your opinion. The occasion should be important enough to positively stand out against other letters.

If possible please refer to an article from the newspaper. List the date, the headline, the page number and the responsible department. The envelope should be addressed with "letter to the editor".

b. concise and clear
The editors want as many stories as possible to be printed. The size of your letter should not exceed 500 words or even contain less. However, the maximum length of a contribution varies significantly from newspaper to newspaper. It should also be kept in relation to previous printed articles. The editor reserves the right to shorten the text to a manageable size (for example in setting) as long as this does not affect the factual storyline.

Only submit typed letters. No one would like to decipher hand-written letters. Faxes may reach their destination in poor quality and are to be avoided. Emails are a possibility if the editorial department has an e-mail address.

c. factual
The editor acts as a moderator. Any exaggerated formulation written in anger will have little chance of being printed. Express yourself clearly and be accurate, harsh words are no substitute for conclusive arguments. The contributions should make the point of argument clear, and not turn into a scientific debate on the subject. Generally speaking letters are most likely to be printed, if they bring light to a subject from an innovative perspective, which provides good suggestions and not only criticism.

Apart from that the structure should be the same as for press briefings: Begin your text with the most important things. In addition to these facts, figures, dates and comparisons are welcome.

The author of a letter to the press is legally responsible for it. The legal responsibility for publishing, however, lies with the newspaper. If there is a case of a legal dispute about the contents that they published, they therefore have to check these themselves. Since this exceeds expectation of editorial departments the publication of letters to the editor concerning legal disputes are usually avoided.

d. authentic
Anonymous letters will not be published. The author of a letter should state his name and address. Do not use a pseudonym or fake address. State your phone number so that you can be easily reached if necessary and since this makes it easier to trace the authenticity of a letter. Do not call (repeatedly) to ask whether your letter is being printed. The letter should be signed because this is necessary in order for it to become a document that can be used in the newspaper.

Newspaper editors are looking for opinions of single readers or representatives of organisations. Resolutions, appeals or open letters that have been signed by groups but also circular letters and copies will normally not be included.

e. our offer - your source
React to current reports in the press and use our information, take up human rights violations and stimulate new reports. Please send us the newspaper articles when your report is published. You are welcome to use our press briefings, articles from our journals and passages from our documentaries as long as you quote the source.

 

f. summary

 

  • Reference a current report of the newspaper stating the issue, title, page and editor
  • Be sententious, to the point, factual and use original facts & figures
  • Name, address, telephone number, signature, "letter to the editor" on the envelope
  • Only typed manuscripts
  • Please send us a copy or your letter

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