July/August Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Op-Ed Pieces

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

Does the latest news drive you crazy? Is there an issue you’re dying to spout off about? Maybe you should write an op-ed piece. Op-ed pieces are the opinion essays that appear on the page opposite the editorial page of most newspapers. Some are written by syndicated columnists or local VIPs, but there’s also space for freelance writers. Look for pieces tagged commentary, perspectives, guest editorial, first person, other voices, my turn, etc.

Op-ed pieces are written in the first person, and they include the author’s opinion, backed up with evidence from life experience and research. They usually have a connection to current events. The best pieces use personal stories to make a point that everyone can relate to.

These pieces generally range from 500 to 750 words, although some are much shorter or longer. Visit the Communications Consortium Media Center for guidelines from most U.S. papers or go to the individual newspaper’s site. Queries are not necessary. Send the whole piece, preferably by email, noting clearly what it is in the subject line. Include a brief note explaining the purpose of your piece and who you are.

Good opinion pieces include: a catchy title, a strong opening that grabs the readers, a clear thesis, an original slant, a connection to current events, logical arguments, facts and examples and a focused conclusion. Don’t leave the reader guessing as to what you’re trying to say.

Sometimes you’ll get paid; other times it’s a freebie. Either way, op-ed pieces offer fabulous exposure, an opportunity for a great clip, and a chance to vent.

Your challenge this month: Free-write for 300-500 words on something that really ticks you off. Alternatively, write a counter argument to a recently published op-ed piece or staff editorial. Share the lead with us, and, for extra credit, polish it up and send it to a newspaper-or to several non-competing papers.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for Writing-world.com and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.
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