Letters to editors:
Studies show that letters to the editors are
one of the widely-read sections of any newspaper. Writing a letter to the editor
is also a quick and easy way to respond to negative coverage in the news or to
educate the public on issues relating to Islam and Muslims.
Because newspapers receive so many letters on a daily basis, most letters of the
editors do not get published. To increase your chances of publication, be sure
to follow the guidelines:
- letters to the editor should express one idea.
- State the purpose of the letter in the first paragraph and keep it to 25
words or less.
- Keep your letter to no more than 150-250 words. Newspapers are apt to edit
extensively if you write more.
- React quickly to news of the day or negative coverage. If possible, have
the letter in the hands of the editor on the same day in which the news or
negative editorial appears.
- Be authoritative. Speak on behalf of an organization or community if
- Offer a solution.
- Address the letter to “The Letters Editor.”
- Be passionate or even controversial, but avoid rhetoric or defamation.
An opinion editorial, or op-ed, for short,
is an opinion piece that tries to persuade the reader to adopt a particular
point of view. An op-ed must have a single central message with supporting
evidence to reemphasize the central message. But before starting an op-ed, call
the newspaper to make sure they will accept outside editorials and whether they
would be interested in publishing your particular piece. Due to space restraints
and in-house policies, some newspapers do not accept opinion editorials from
people outside the newspaper.
Also, be mindful that most papers have an op-ed review process that can take up
to a week. Many of the larger newspapers will require exclusivity - the idea
that the author will grant the newspaper sole rights to publishing his/her
The following are a few guidelines to follow when writing an op-ed:
- Contact the editorial board of the newspaper to get a clear understanding
of the editorial guidelines of that newspaper.
- Start the op-ed with an increasing hook to grab reader's attention and
sustain it by stating the position you will take and how you will support the
- Support your argument in the next few paragraphs by citing examples or
- Close with some call to action or solution to the problem.
- Keep articles under 1000 words.
- Stress the local impact, if relevant.
- Write in AP style.
- Keep trying. Rejection is normal.
For a spokesperson of a Muslim organization or mosque, the basic means of
communication between you and the news media is the press
release. A press release reads like a good story or at least the
framework for a good story.
The headline and first paragraph (also called the lead) should grab the editor's
attention and include the most important information of your message. The
questions of who, what, where, when and why should be answered within the first
two paragraphs of the press release.
The next few paragraphs should elaborate on other details of your message and
can include a quote from a representative of your organization or mosque.
Finally, you will want to include the contact information of someone who
designated to handle all of the media requests.
Other Press Release Components:
- Letterhead: Write your press release on the official letterhead of your
organization or mosque.
- Typeface: Use common typefaces such as “Times” and “Helvetica.”
- Release Date and Contact Information: Indicate when the release was issued
and who may be contacted for more information.
- Headline: Summarize the angle of the story in the headline use capital
letters to set it apart from the rest of the text.
- Lead Paragraph: The first paragraph should answer as much as possible the
who, what, where, when and why of your message.
- Body: Arrange the information in your press release from most important to
- Conclusion: State standard facts about your organization or mosque that
can be used as an introduction or tag.
- –END-, #30, or ###: Use of one of these symbols to indicate the end of a
- Spacing/Length: Try to double space and keep the press release to one page
- Distribution of Press Release: Send the press release to the appropriate
media outlets. Local news will usually be covered by local media outlets
whereas national media outlets will cover national news and trends.
Another type of news release is a media advisory.
A media advisory is a release that informs the press and daybook editors of a
newsworthy event to take place in the near future. An advisory primarily focuses
on the who, what, when and where of the event.
Media advisories are typically issued when a group is having a press conference,
speech, open-house or other events that the media can attend.
A good media advisory is short and to the point, lists photo and sound
opportunities, and is time sensitive. They are sent before an event, ideally a
week before, whereas press releases are issued in response to an event.
A press conference is a staged media event that allows a
spokesperson to deliver his or her message in person to invited press officials.
It allows a community or organization the platform to announce news, or create
At a press conference, a statement is usually made. A statement offers the
community an opportunity to present a unified front on a variety of issues, to
go on record for clearing up misconceptions about the community or organization,
and to comment on important news.
For a press conference to be successful, there are few points to remember:
- Try to build visuals into the event, if possible.
- Timing is important. The best time to hold a news conference is between
10am to 1 p.m. or 7 to 8:30 p.m. You never want to host a press conference
around 4 or 5 p.m. because reporters are usually filing their stories at this
- Designate one or two people as media contacts for the event. All media
inquiries should be directed to them in order to keep the message uniform and
- Send out a media advisory about the event as early as possible.
- Follow up with phone calls to key media professionals who you want at the
Steps to Holding a Press Conference:
- Determine the appropriate location for the press conference such as a
mosque or conference room.
- Contact those who will be attending the news conference to get their
approval of the broad outline of the format and statement.
- Fax out the news release. Remember to send a copy to the local wire
service Daybook editor.
- Arrange to have the press conference participants arrive early to discuss
- After the media has set up, introduce the participants and give their
- Read a short statement. Offer part participants to say a few words ( 1-2
minutes) and then take questions. If feasible, one-on-one interviews can be
arranged after the press conference.
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