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Monday, June 08, 2009

How Do You Write and Publish an Op-Ed?

One thing it seems that a good number of law prawfs do from time to time is to write op-ed pieces for newspapers.  I've tried to do this a number of times.  My attempts have always failed.  Generally, some issue comes up that I think I could say something about, so I write 700 words about it and email it to the editors of some newspapers and then nothing at all happens.  Maybe the pieces are still under consideration, but given that I sent most of them at least three years ago, I doubt it.

So, I'm wondering if those of you who have successfully written and placed op-eds could provide some advice for those of us who would like to publish one but have no idea how to best go about it.  I guess one question is whether people really do just write up op-eds and send them cold to editors and get them published, or whether they are instead generally solicited.  Assuming that they are not all solicited, what are your tips for getting an op-ed published?  To what papers and what people do you send them?  Do you send them to one place at a time or are multiple submissions OK in some circumstances?  What papers are most receptive to unsolicited submissions?  What issues are most likely to grab an editor's attention?  What else?

Posted by Jay Wexler on June 8, 2009 at 08:29 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink

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Comments

I've had some luck with placing cold op-eds with local / regional newspapers where I am resident in the region and either find a local / unique angle or find a way that the op-ed is in disagreement with the paper's official line. I would suggest that the local angle is the best way to get a cold op-ed published.

Posted by: Jason | Jun 9, 2009 4:28:50 PM

Apart from form (lede, hook, etc.) the two most important considerations for placement are: (1) you need to be providing new information, not merely stating an opinion; and (2) the subject should be something that syndicated columnists are not addressing. See, for example, Francois Millo's piece in today's NYT. It is interesting, informative, and new.

Regarding law, then, your best bets are looming but underappreciated problems. You can also get ahead of the curve by writing about SCOTUS cases just before oral argument, rather than after the decision. You might be able to write about a case like today's Caperton decision -- especially if you have a novel insight -- but forget about Ricci unless you are solicited or you have a preexisting relationship with the oped editor.

Posted by: Steven Lubet | Jun 8, 2009 1:43:54 PM

Among the most effective "cold" submissions are those by people who are party to or somehow affiliated with a side in a timely dispute on a public issue. Brevity, zing, facts added to a debate, and a simple over arching concept that can fit a headline also help.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 8, 2009 12:59:37 PM

I've written a few op-eds over the years, and have placed them both by "cold" submissions of hyper-timely pieces (e.g., "Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided . . . "). My sense has been that multiple-submissions is frowned on, which makes things difficult. Often, a University's media people can help place op-eds with editors they know.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jun 8, 2009 11:14:34 AM

The Op-Ed Project has a number of resources:
http://www.theopedproject.org/cms/

Submission Information
Arguments That Changed the World
Questions for Op-Ed Writers
Tips for Op-Ed Writing
Basic Op-Ed Structure
Ledes and News Hooks
How to Pitch
Mentor Editors

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jun 8, 2009 9:06:43 AM

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