Letter Writing Tips
1) Respond while the issue is still fresh in the minds of the
journalists and their audience. Try to send your letter within a week of the
broadcast or article.
2) State the point of your letter within the first two sentences. A
reader scanning the letter should be able to quickly identify your view of
the issue in question.
3) If writing a critical letter, be specific about why the article or
broadcast was unfair. Was it inaccurate, out-of-context, one-sided? If it
was partisan, whom did it favor?
4) Be concise. Most publications will not print more than 250-300 words
for a letter to the editor. Check to see what your paper's limit is and
stick to it. Editors tend to publish letters they don't have to spend time
shortening. When publication is not your goal (e.g. writing to a TV news
station), you can expand your commentary, but do not exceed two pages.
5) Limit your topic. While an article or broadcast may contain numerous
instances of bias, focus on just one or two. Your opening line can refer to
the overall skew of the broadcast/article, but then zero-in, e.g. "Your
broadcast unfairly disparaged Israel with its numerous factual and
contextual errors. One such error was..." It's better to fully explain one
point than to inadequately cover five.
6) If you are writing with publication in mind, do not restate the
inaccuracies of the article. Doing so only gives them more exposure. Refer
to them briefly and only as a launch for your own points, e.g. "Smith's
partisan article on Jerusalem did the public a disservice. Key elements
missing were [points A,B,C]."
7) Stick to the facts. Hostile or overly emotional language is
counterproductive. Use factual information. Here are some links to
information available on the web.
8) Write as a concerned individual. Mentioning that you are responding
to an alert may lessen the impact of your letter.
9) Maximize the impact. Send a copy of your letter not just to the
editor, but also to the reporter, foreign editor, publisher...to
advertisers/sponsors of the broadcast...to congressional reps if the report
was on public radio or television...When writing to a syndicated columnist,
be sure to send a copy to the paper the columnist works for, as well as to
your local paper if the column appears there.
10) Follow up with a call to the editor of the Letters-to-the-Editor
page to ask if your letter will be published. If the answer is no, ask why
and what you could do to make your letter more acceptable for publication.
If the editor doesn't remember your letter, offer to read it over the phone
and/or re-email it. If your letter is published, make yourself memorable by
writing a note to the editor thanking him/her for allowing your concerns to
be shared with the public.
11) Before publishing a letter, most papers will call to verify that you
wrote it. Remember, particularly if you're using e-mail, to include your
full name, title (if applicable), address and daytime phone number.
Copyright © 2002 by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting
in America. All rights reserved. This column may be reprinted without prior