By Cheri Andes
Earlier this year, Bread for the World embarked on a national campaign to build support for the reauthorization of domestic child nutrition programs and the expanded Child Tax Credit through the use of op-eds written by Bread activists and published in local newspapers.
In January, Bread held a training for leader activists across the country, led by a national media organization, on how to effectively write and submit an op-ed.
Since that training, we’ve had nine op-eds published in local papers in six states. More are being written and submitted as the campaign continues.
Writing an op-ed, or opinion editorial, in a local daily newspaper about an issue you care about can be especially impactful. Seventy-three percent of Americans have faith in their local newspaper, according to a survey by the Poynter Institute.
So, while trust in the national media has eroded, the local dailies are still seen as a reliable source of information.
The author of an op-ed, writing in a trusted local outlet, can lay out an argument about a topic without interruption and with a good amount of space. Op-eds are longer than letters to the editor – usually about 700-750 words.
According to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, op-ed columns are an effective means for changing people’s minds about the issues of the day.
Alexander Coppock, assistant professor of political science at Yale University and the study’s lead author said, “We found that op-ed pieces have a lasting effect on people’s views regardless of their political affiliation or their initial stance on an issue. People read an argument and were persuaded by it. It’s that simple.”
But the effectiveness of op-eds does not end once the piece is published. After the op-ed runs in your local newspaper, we encourage the author and other readers to send a copy of the article to the local offices of their members of Congress.
This helps ensure that the members’ staff know the op-ed was published and recognize that people in their legislative district or state are concerned about the issue (when sending in their op-ed you can also ask to set up a meeting with the member of Congress or a person on their staff).
We also encourage the author and others to share the op-ed on social media so that the piece reaches a wider audience.
Cheri Andes is Northeast regional organizer at Bread for the World.