Tips on how to get a guest column in a major daily paper.
June 21, 2013
Q. I feel strongly about the push to ban assault weapons. What can I do to get a guest column on gun legislation published in a major daily paper?
A. Newspapers both printed and online, niche publications and the blogosphere like strong voices on controversial subjects. They feel it helps them keep their finger on the pulse of what people are thinking and saying. Plus, it helps them keep a controversial subject alive and burning which increases readership.
Here are three important things you can do to increase your chances of getting your piece published:
- Call, or these days, email the publication and find out who handles guest columns. Do not ask to speak to the Editorial Page Editor because that person is way too busy to help you. It may take a few tries, but when you get to the right person ask if they would be interested in the column. If they are, ask for a word count and a deadline date. Stick to the word count when you write it; shorter is better. After you submit it, follow up with the person you spoke to originally to make sure it was received and to see if they have any questions. Ask if they think it will be published and when.
- Make it provocative, simple and interesting. The general public reads at about a sixth-grade level and has a very short attention span. You need to grab their attention in the first sentence and keep it. If your argument is too wordy, boring or complicated, the editor won’t accept your piece because he or she knows the public will not take the time to read it. Also, you need to articulate a fresh point-of-view that people haven’t heard or read before.
- Provide links for fact checking and a photo of yourself. The paper will give your piece a basic fact check, so make it easy for them. Instead of sending a headshot of yourself, send a photo of you hunting with gun in hand if you engage in that sport. That will make your piece provocative because people believe most hunters do not favor gun control.
Source: Michigan Environmental Report — Winter 2013