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Publishing OpEds can advance your career and the mission of your clients. These short, opinion-editorial pieces help strengthen your ties between you and the news media and expand your network of connected professionals. Network building is what we do best, and the more connected we are, the more we can promote our clients, our brands and our institutions. To make those important connections, start writing for local and national news outlets because they need you just as much as you need them. As practiced researchers and writers, we already have the required skillsets.
Even editors at the New York Times depend on writers like us to fill their pages. Now that they have their popular Opinionator blog and the Sunday Review to fill, editors are always looking for new voices with fresh perspectives. The Washington Post is another option. These editors want content, too, and you can easily submit with their online form. Plus, organizations like the OpEd Project can help since they’ve already done the majority of the legwork for you. They created an extensive database of over 100 different news outlets that includes writing, formatting, and submission guidelines.
The topic of your OpEd depends on where you plan to submit your piece, but the structure remains the same. An OpEd looks like an argumentative essay with a little extra pizazz. The piece should be grounded in up-to-date research, and can take on a conversational tone, so don’t be scared to infuse some style. It should start with a hook–something your intended audience finds funny or cares about–and then merge into your lede, which attaches your idea to a current news topic. It helps to write out ideas as they come, so you already have something started when that perfect breaking story hits headlines. That way, you can submit before everyone else, which is half the battle.
As JHU graduate students, we have lots of material already started and a good amount of credibility, which helps. Johns Hopkins University just climbed to number 10 in the U.S. News and World report. This report put our institution in both national and global news headlines. People know who we are, so once you have an idea, run with it! That’s what I did. With just one idea and a dash of credibility, I published an OpEd over the summer titled “Facebook and micropayments could save news,” and that idea started in Professor Mary Kane’s Journalism and Publishing course.
In my research, I found it fascinating that Facebook just dominates the social media world, so I saved one of my assignment posts and bookmarked it as a possible OpEd puzzle piece for later. When the Pew Research Center released new data about Millennials now outnumbering Baby Boomers, I knew I had my hook and lede:
“News organizations should rethink their marketing tactics in light of a new study from the Pew Research Center. The bottom line: Millennials (ages 18-34) now outnumber Baby Boomers, and this generation is expected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million…
…this shift is huge for news organizations because Millennials do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch news on television or seek out news in great numbers…
Using the lede to identify a problem or opportunity is a great way to grab readers. How will news organizations get 81.1 Millennials to pay for their product? The proposed solution becomes the last puzzle piece, the ending, and should spark a discussion on the topic, which is ultimately what you want:
“One way to grab [Millennials] could be by a micropayments system, something resembling iTunes where we pay as we go. We don’t want to buy the entire newspaper. We won’t even look at the whole thing, let alone read it…”
As a Millennial myself, I considered how I’d pay for news and thought of iTunes where I purchase one song at a time. Canada has a similar micropayments system for news, and this, I realized, could be a solution that provides some sort of closure for my readers. And as it turned out, a company called Coinetize liked this option too and contacted me after reading my article. It seems these closed endings are grounds for future opportunity, so the more research you have under your belt, the better the resolution will be.
If you take courses at our DC campus, I suggest enrolling in 480.662.51 – Opinion Writing where you will learn all these tricks from an expert. If, like me, you are purely an online student, try 480.658.81 – Public Relations Writing. And remember; don’t let rejection stop you. I submitted many, many different articles prior to publication. And each of those articles was in its fifth or sixth draft. Let your ear be your guide, and if possible, have a trusted friend read it too. Stay patient, stay positive. When your OpEd is finally accepted, the victory of your accomplishment will be that much sweeter.
Kara Maddox teaches English at Georgia Military College. She’s working on her MA in Communications through JHU’s digital campus.