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Want Your Opinion Heard?

Emily Johnson

Securing a coveted spot in a major publication’s editorial and op-ed section is tough. On Wednesday, the Publicity Club of Chicago invited three influential editorial board members and opinion editors to share the ins-and-outs of pitching op-eds and editorial boards.

Here are some things to remember for pitching an editorial department:

Headlines Matter

Tom McNamee, Editorial Page Editor of Chicago Sun-Times, explained that while the newsroom has hundreds of reporters, the editorial department only has 10 members. With such a small department, you can only imagine the amount of pitches each member receives a day. Tom estimated he received around 340 pitch emails a day. It is simply impossible to even open every one, which makes a compelling headline the most important part of a pitch to an editorial department.

Consider the Outlet’s POV

Newsroom reporters report the facts and present an issue from a neutral perspective and take every measure to be fair to both sides. The editorial department, on the other hand, writes opinion pieces that reflect the general viewpoint of the paper.

It is extremely important to consider the point of view of the publication and editorial board you want to pitch. For example, if you are a democratic candidate it is unlikely you will get endorsed by an outlet that generally tends to lean right like the Chicago Tribune.

This doesn’t mean to completely disregard the publication though. In fact, the group noted that they are actually more inclined to meet with someone they disagree with because they already know and understand their side very well.

Don’t Forget Letter’s to the Editor and Comment Section

If you do manage to score a meeting with the editorial department, it does not guarantee that they will write up your topic. Even if they do decide to write up a story based on the meeting, there is a chance that the story is not portrayed the way you want because editorials always reflect the opinion of the paper.

To ensure that you or your client’s opinion is heard, you can submit an op-ed. However, it is extremely difficult to get op-eds published. Greg Burns, a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial department, estimated that less than 1% of submitted op-eds run.

There are other ways to get you opinion or raise awareness about an issue – Letters to the Editor, and even the comment section and message boards. Tom explained that the Sun-Times’ editor for the Letters to the Editor section reads every single submitted letter. Also, the comment section and message boards are often a major source of information for research and can influence the direction of a story.

Any Interaction is Productive

Even though getting an editorial or op-ed published can sometimes be a long-shot, it is worth a try. The attendees explained that any interaction between a PR representative, client and a reporter is always productive. It is beneficial to get your client on the editorial boards’ radar and to present another side of an argument. If the editorial board does not agree with your stance on an issue, at least they will be aware of the other side and know your client as a potential source.

What do you think? Do you have any additional advice I overlooked for pitching opinion pieces or editorial boards?