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 straightforward. 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 sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many young people in America struggle to stay healthy. With physical education decreasing in schools, we’re seeing obesity increase.”
- 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.
- You can also choose an influential signer; 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 emotional op-ed below.
Ex. Don’t You Want Our Children to Grow Up Healthy?
Ex. Jennifer Smith
It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for my physical education (PE) class. I distinctly remember my gym teacher teaching us how to play basketball and stretch safely. I also enjoyed learning about nutrition and how food affects my health. Now that I have my own child, I realize how drastically things have changed. It seems that every day before I take my daughter to school in the mornings and after I pick her up in the afternoon, the opportunities for play and exercise are so limited. She doesn’t get half the physical activity or health education that I did when I was in school. I do what I can to teach her about physical health, but I wish she had a trained professional to give her the knowledge I lack during the school day. I have to admit; I’m growing concerned about her physical health and how this will impact her future.
As it turns out, my concerns are valid. Obesity rates are on the rise and affect nearly a third of children in America. I want my daughter to get more exercise, but it’s not that easy. At her school, a priority is placed on standardized test scores above everything else, including physical health and education. Yet, studies show that a student’s academic performance and cognitive ability improves with increased time spent in physical activity. Frankly, I’m concerned about children across our entire state, especially those in low-income communities, where kids are even less physically active due to a lack of resources, space, and funding for PE in schools.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
However, I’ve also heard that there may be a solution for my daughter and so many others in [STATE]. Some communities across the country are pressuring their school boards to re-emphasize the importance of having physical education as a part of the structured school day. Parents, teachers, and community organizations are advocating for longer time spent in PE classes to help students get active and learn important lessons about health overall. That’s what I want for my daughter—opportunities for her to grow up strong, with healthy habits in place that will carry her throughout her life. Isn’t that what we all want for our children?
Neighbors, fellow parents: it’s up to us to make sure our children get the physical activity they need for mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s up to us to help change whether or not schools are providing our children with the proper physical education classes to grow up smart and strong. If we want our kids to have success in the future, we must Exercise their Minds™ and protect PE, today. Join me in standing up for the health of our children, and support physical education in schools.
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: 450 Words