ADVOCATE FROM YOUR HOME

During the legislative season many newspapers run articles, letters, editorials, and editorial cartoons about mental illness.  Some of these published items are friendly towards consumers, some are not.  This presents an opportunity to do some advocacy work from your home.

If you see something in the paper that you support or something you oppose, consider writing a letter to the editor. Some Virginia newspapers’ contact information is included below.

Tips for Writing Letters-to-the-Editor:

  • Submit your letter in a timely manner about a timely topic. Don’t let too much time slip by – news gets old fast.
  • If possible, link your letter to something published recently in the paper (either a news item or another letter-to-the-editor) and respond as quickly as you can.
  • Keep it focused on one main point, concise and informative. Editorial space is limited. A shorter letter has a better chance of getting printed. Word limit is about 200 words per letter but check the paper for guidelines.
  • Find out the publication’s guidelines (length, letters/writer, signers/letter) and stick to them.
  • Be firm but polite: make your case without insults or rants. Don’t engage in personal attacks on reporters or other letter-writers.
  • Write with the assumption that readers know nothing about your topic. Don’t use acronyms or “industry lingo” that only a few will understand.
  • Use talking points that may be provided to you but don’t rely too much on them – always personalize.
  • Always proof read your letter before sending it.
  • Recruit your friends and colleagues to send in letters as well–the more letters submitted on a topic, the better the chance of one of you getting published.
  • If you hold a position, include that with your signature (ex. Board Secretary) to add credibility. It increases the chance that you’ll get published.

When you submit your letter, always include your full name, address and phone number. This information will not be published but many publications will contact you to verify your identity before printing a letter. Also be sure to sign your letter unless submitted over e-mail.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: letters /at/ timesdispatch.com
Freelance Star (Fredericksburg): letters /at/ freelancestar.com
Washington Post: letters /at/ washpost.com (Less than 200 words and preferably responding to a recent Post article.)
Virginian Pilot (Norfolk & Hampton Roads): letters /at/ pilotonline.com
Daily Progress (Charlottesville): letters /at/ dailyprogress.com  (Less than 350 words)
Daily Press (Hampton Roads): online form available at www.dailypress.com in the Opinions section
Roanoke Times:  online form available on the website.  (Less than 350 words)
News and Advance (Lynchburg): Online form available at www.newsadvance.com in the Opinion section.
Daily News Record (Harrisonburg): Online form available at www.dnronline.com in the Opinion section.

Did you get a letter published? Be sure to let others know: send it to bonnie@nullvocalvirginia.org and consider sending it to your state representatives.