The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Letters to the Editor
Abuse thrives in secrecy. Media coverage helps end that secrecy. It also emboldens other victims and concerned family members to come forward. Therefore, one easy step survivors can take to help one another is to write letters to the editor (for publication) of newspapers. Here are some tips.
Be brief, be quick and leave your phone numbers. These are the three most important things to remember when writing letters to the editor.
Be brief, because there's a lot of competition for a small amount of space.
Be quick in writing because the best letter in the world won't get run if the newspaper gets it 3 or 4 weeks after the original article it refers to was printed.
Leave your number. Many papers won't print letters unless they can call the author to verify that he or she wrote it. So sign the letter, and leave both your day and evening phone number.
1) Use statistics sparingly. They can get confusing and overwhelming very quickly.
2) Mention an article already printed by the paper. This dramatically increases the chances that your letter will be run.
3) Remember your audience. In most cases you're trying to sway the public, not your adversary. Therefore, you should take pains to seem moderate and fair. This doesn't mean you should be bland. But you should write with the average person in mind, and use phrases and arguments that resonate with them. You don't want John Q. Public to be turned off your rhetoric and think, "Well, both sides are extremists" (as often happens with the abortion issue for example).
4) A catchy first line is helpful. Instead of "I'm writing to respond to the Star Tribune editorial of August 3rd," try "As a gun owner, the August 3rd editorial left me wondering if Star Tribune editorial writers live in the real world."
5) Don't mention criticism that has been leveled against you or your organization. Avoid saying "I am not a crook, thief and a liar as reported in last week's Star Tribune." Better to say "Star Tribune readers wonder who's telling the truth in the controversy over___."
6) Use short punchy sentences. This makes it easier for the reader to follow your thinking and easier for the editor to cut your letter if necessary (and better to have an edited version of your letter printed than none at all).
7) Many papers accept letters by fax and email as well as U.S. mail these days. It never hurts to sent your letter via both fax and email. Feel free to follow up with a phone call to make sure the appropriate person got your letter.
Here are e-mail addresses for several key newspapers across the country:
Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests