Why write an oped?
Because the world deserves to hear your voice. Yes, yours. And because expressing an opinion is just the first step. Impact matters. More on that in a minute.
“Oped” is shorthand for “opposite the editorial page,” the page in weekly and daily newspapers generally reserved for bylined columns written by readers, columnists, and perhaps you. Think print media is dead? Untrue: In 2011, there were 1,405 daily newspapers in the United States and another 8,400 weeklies. The total circulation? A staggering 200 million. Most have an online presence that increases the number of eyes on copy, whether the words are printed or not.
And despite the proliferation of millions of online blogs that make the Internet cascade with opinion like an oil gusher in a B-movie, audience matters – a lot. The people with the most influence in politics, art, and media still read the op-ed columns of “traditional” media (newspapers, magazines) and getting in print there is still some of the best ways to give your opinion the impact it deserves. Some online opinion sites (Huffington Post, Slate) also have outsized influence.
The right oped can make a measureable impact, sparking debate, establishing your credentials as an expert or thought leader. It can influence local or national policy, and can result in your getting invited to be on national television news programs or even getting offered a book contract. Don’t believe me? Talk to anyone who has ever gotten an oped in a newspaper such as The New York Times. As soon as it’s in print, the attention can be overwhelming.
Not every oped needs to appear in The New York Times to exert influence, of course. (But if the Gray Lady is your ultimate goal, read my next blog). Smaller newspapers are easier places to aim for and are more open to publishing local opinion now more than ever. Their budgets are much lower than even five years ago. As a result, they aren’t carrying as many expensive syndicated columns, leaving a bigger space for your opinion.
There’s another important reason to think local when it comes to opinion. Regional issues can be just as important to your corner of the world as the “big picture” issues that affect us all.
Sometimes, getting a traffic light placed on the intersection a block from the local elementary school or challenging your town’s noise ordinance can be a triumph – not to mention improving the quality of life in your area. Writing a persuasive oped can be the key to making change happen. So, go get ‘em.