Write Your Own Op-Ed
One way you can take action for your campaign is to write or recruit an advocate to write an op-ed for your local newspaper, magazine, blog, community, or school newsletter. Look for an advocate who is credible on the topic and well-known in your community to sign your op-ed, as they will likely draw in more readers for the publication. A recognized person in the community, a person with a strong personal story, or an expert in the issue area is a good place to start.
An op-ed is a written opinion editorial published in a local, regional, or national media outlet. Sometimes it’s a personal, emotional story—other times the facts are presented in a straightforward manner. Many people like to read op-eds because community ideas are important, and they can’t get those same opinions in objective journalism. When you write about your cause publicly, you’re spreading awareness to legislators, journalists, and members of your community, giving them the chance to learn more about the issue, form their own opinions about your cause, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.
Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your op-ed can be either emotional or rational. It all depends on the story you want to tell. The sample emotional op-ed below is an example of a soft-sell. It encourages readers to care about what the author cares about and uses personal touches to emphasize why this is important to the signer. A hard-sell op-ed presses the urgency of the issue and uses words like, “can’t,” “refuse,” “never,” and “now.”
- A rational introduction often includes statistics and logical explanations for why your issue is important. An example introduction for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many children in America aren’t learning the healthy habits they need to stay healthy. In fact, instead of being engaged in active play, many children spend much of their time outside of school hours on digital devices.”
- A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and also makes them curious enough to read it.
- When choosing an influential signer, try to identify someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a doctor, researcher, or politician, and who can help you gain attention or earn a placement in a high-profile publication. Make sure to include the signer’s contact information—name, title, organization (if needed), e-mail, and phone number—in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.
Do you think your community is ready to learn more in an op-ed? Let’s get started by breaking down the sample op-ed below.
Ex. Do You Want Our Children to Grow Up Healthy?
Ex. Janis Smith
It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.
As a [PARENT or YOUR PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL CONNECTION TO THE ISSUE], I care deeply about the health of our children in [STATE]. Studies show that healthy, active children learn better, but many kids aren’t getting the healthy food and physical activity they need each day. In fact, children spend much of their time outside of school hours on digital devices, rather than engaged in active play. I don’t want that for [MY DAUGHTER/MY SON/OUR CHILDREN].
I want [MY DAUGHTER/MY SON/OUR CHILDREN] to receive opportunities to eat healthy and be active outside of school just as I want [HER/HIM/THEM] to receive those opportunities during the school day.
Out-of-school time programs – which include before-school care, after-school care and summer camps – can play a vital role in supporting the overall health and wellness our kids. However, the programs in [STATE] are not required to meet the healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards adopted by the National AfterSchool Association.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
While unfortunate, I believe we can work together to help ensure that our out-of-school time programs meet these national standards to support the health of our children. We need to push [STATE] to adopt policies that encourage and support out-of-school time programs in the adoption of HEPA standards. By helping to implement these standards, we can limit our children’s time on digital devices to less than one hour per day, to be used on homework or games rather than television or movies. We can make sure our kids are being served more fruits, vegetables and water outside of school, rather than sugary drinks and snack foods. These standards can also help children receive increased opportunities for physical activity, and ensure that programs offer activities that are inclusive of children with all abilities. As a [PARENT OF A #-YEAR OLD/CONCERNED COMMUNITY MEMBER], these are all things I really appreciate.
Once implemented, these standards will help provide the kids in [STATE] with the ability to grow up with healthy habits in place that will carry them throughout their lives. Isn’t that what we all want?
It’s up to us to work together to help our children get the physical activity and nutrition they need for mental, emotional, and physical health. If we want our children to have success in the future, we must place a premium on physical education and healthy eating habits, inside AND outside of school.
Join me in working with other parents, community members, and school officials in advocating for clear and consistent standards in out-of-school time programs in [STATE]. Together, we can make sure all kids stay on the right path.
Remember to include a link at the end of your piece so that your readers know how to join your movement or create a campaign of their own.
Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.
Word Count: 423 Words