Newspapers, blogs, and even local radio and TV shows need news, ideas, and content—and you can help them. It takes a little legwork to earn coverage in the local media, but when you do, thousands of people will hear your ideas.
Remember that it often takes patience and perseverance to win media attention. Just keep trying even if your first letter to the editor doesn’t get printed or a blogger doesn’t respond to your message.
Writing a Letter to the Editor or OpEd
The easiest way to earn local media coverage is through a letter to the editor. Similarly, you can submit an Op-Ed—a longer piece that usually runs next to a newspaper’s editorials and columns. Usually letters to the editor are about 150 words in length. Op-Eds run between 600 and 800 words. Here are some tips to get yourself in print:
- Take the High Road—Your letter or Op-Ed should clearly state your position, and back it up with key facts or experiences. At the same time, do not insult people who hold other views.
- Follow Instructions—Newspapers often print (or provide online) guidelines for submitting letters and Op-Eds. Follow these as closely as possible.
- Make it Local and Personal—Write from your heart and share your story. You have personal reasons why market-based health care reform is important to you and your community.
- Use a News Hook—Your letter has a better chance of running if it responds to an earlier story or refers to an event, announcement, published study, and so on.
- What’s Your Solution?—Do you think we need to go back to square one on health care reform? Do you believe better compromises are possible? Share what you think will make health care reform better.
You can also use the tips above to comment online in response to articles, blogs, or other reader’s posts in your local news and media. You might even become a regular commentator on a local website or blog, such as your city’s Patch.com or similar website.
Working with Reporters & Bloggers
TV, newspaper, and radio reporters, editors, producers, and some bloggers may be local celebrities, but they are also everyday people who have a job to do—and you can help them. It’s perfectly okay to communicate with reporters, though be respectful of their time. Here are some tips to building relationships with members of the media and earning coverage:
- Use Email First—Generally, the best way to communicate with members of the media is first by email. You can often find email addresses in newspapers or on websites.
- Be a Resource—If you have expertise—such as your own experiences as a small-business owner seeking health insurance—share this with reporters. Even if you don’t earn coverage, a reporter may contact you for a future story. Position yourself as a credible source.
- Share News—You shouldn’t just call a reporter to chat—unless you’re calling a talk radio program doing a story on health care reform. Instead, share news when you have news—such as highlighting a neighborhood forum on health insurance options.
- Contact Bloggers—In some communities, there are highly influential bloggers who attract local readers. Remember to identify these online writers and to communicate with them as well.
- Keep the Health Action Network in the Loop—Our media team may be able to provide assistance—and we want to share your successes with the larger community. Reach out using our Contact page as needed.
Today’s online world also offers opportunities for you to become your own reporter—or at least to highlight community events. Look for opportunities to be a guest blogger on local websites such as Patch.com, or post responses to articles, blogs, and other reader’s comments.
Other ways to Participate