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Hi. Glenn here. To go along with the monthly letter-writing notes I'm sending below the Voices 'how-to' guide to writing to the press (including contacts for all the major UK papers) Apologies if it has been posted to the list before. Hope the material is considered useful rather than patronising! All the best, Glenn. ---------------------------------------- Letters to the Editor : a brief how-to guide. a voices in the wilderness briefing, November 2000 To take out an advert in one of the broad sheets would cost you a small fortune. Yet, every day, the broad sheets provide a space which, with a little effort, you can use to get whatever message you want across to a large group  of people FOR FREE. This space is reputedly one of the most read parts of the paper : the letters page. The following simple tips are based on 3 years experience of writing letters to the broad sheets. Following these tips obviously can’t guarantee publication but it may help to increase your chances. 1. Be ‘relevant’ ... The broad sheets are remarkably parochial. If possible, you should always make a reference to something that's appeared in the paper you’re writing to (eg. an article, another letter etc...) This is absolutely key, since the broad sheets don’t usually publish letters which fail this criterion. For anti-sanctions campaigners this means looking out for articles, letters, editorials etc... that could be the springboard for a letter. Examples : New Statesman, 3rd April 2000. Letter from Gabriel Carlyle. ‘Robin Cook writes that the UN oil-for-food programme “has been working for three years and could have started years earlier had Saddam not blocked it” (“Will he film Saddam’s next victims ?”, 27th March). The claim is worth examining in some detail ...’ The Spectator, 26th August 2000. Letter from Andrea Needham. ‘John Laughland opens his piece on British foreign policy (‘We are only obeying orders’, 12 August) with a reference to the die-in for the people of Iraq, which, as he notes, took place on 7 August ...’ 2. Keep it short. As an ordinary member of the public you don’t have much space to play with : 2-300 words maximum (MP’s and Ambassadors seem to have slightly greater leeway). Even then, you should expect your letter to be edited down : sometimes with your consent, sometimes not and the shorter your original, the less chance they’ll have to mutilate it. If you write your letter using Microsoft Word then you can use the ‘word count’ tool to keep track of how many words you’ve written. 3. Keep it simple. Keep your letter as simple as possible. Focus on one or two points, not twelve. Try to ensure that your letter is intelligible to the average reader, who may lack your specialist knowledge. Keep an eye out for juicy quotes and figures for your letters. 4. Time is of the essence ... The letters pages seem to have a very short ‘memory’, so you need to get your letters to them as soon as possible. You don’t stand much chance of publication if you’re writing in response to a letter that appeared two weeks previously. E-mail is the best (and, if you have it, the simplest) method of writing to the letters pages, followed by fax. Terrestrial mail comes a very distant third. Here’s a rough timetable : * Dailies : for a piece that appears on a weekday (ie. Monday - Friday) you should try and get your response to the paper the same day not later than 4pm. * Saturday papers : you have until midday on Sunday to respond. * Sunday papers : you’ll usually have several days (though it varies from paper to paper). 5. Don't rant. They won’t publish it. 6. Make sure to include an address and telephone number in your e-mail. Many papers *require* this from letter writers. 7. Novelty. Your letter is more likely to get published if it contains some element of novelty eg. a new piece of information, a reference to an act of civil disobedience on the part of the author(s), a reference to a new web-site, or a celebrity signatory (or signatories). The more letters you have published, the more important this sort of thing probably is. 8. Check your facts. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Never quote something from memory, always double check. If you use a secondary source, make sure it’s accurate. Only use sources that the average reader is going to consider credible (eg. Human Rights Watch). 9. Hit as many outlets as possible. Opportunities for anti-sanctions letters to the editor often come in bunches eg. when the August 1999 Unicef report (on child mortality in Iraq) was published, all of the broad sheets, except the Telegraph, covered the story. One can often use slightly modified versions of a letter to one paper to send to the others. Needless to say, the more papers you write to, the more chance you have of getting published ... The only fly in the ointment here is that The Times will only publish letters which are exclusive to The Times ie. they won’t publish your letter if you’ve written a similar letter to the other papers on the same theme. 10. If at first you don’t succeed ... If you’ve followed all of the above then a major factor in getting your letters pages is simply persistence. A good point can often be recycled and used again if there were no takers the first time ... Here are the e-mail addresses for the letters pages of the 5 major daily broad sheets : The Guardian : email@example.com The Independent : firstname.lastname@example.org The Daily Telegraph : email@example.com The Financial Times : firstname.lastname@example.org The Times : email@example.com Here are the Sunday broad sheets : Independent on Sunday : firstname.lastname@example.org Sunday Telegraph : email@example.com Sunday Times : letter@Sunday-times.co.uk The Observer : firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, the Guardian also produce a weekly news digest : The Guardian Weekly, with it’s own letters page (a lot of ex pats read this) : email@example.com NOTES  The Guardian Media Book 2001 gives the following average circulation figures for the period Jan - June 2000 : Independent (224,000) ; Guardian (396,534), Financial Times (457,653), The Times (722,642), Daily Telegraph (1,033,680) ; Independent on Sunday (248,564), Observer (415,004), Sunday Times (1,369,461), Sunday Telegraph (811,408 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk