From the M Word blog comes this information shared by Tom McNamee of the Chicago Sun Times at the ALA Annual Conference:
The term “op-ed” means opposite the editorial. In newspapers, an op-ed piece is usually placed on the page opposite an editorial.
- Keep them to 400- 500 words ( I suggest you call your editor and ask them or do a word count in the paper you are sending it to.)
- Have something worth saying
- Tell a story
- No matter how important your story is, remember that people will only read it if it entertains them
We’ve also learned that you need to plan your op-eds because chances are your paper isn’t going to publish your op-ed every month (they call those columns). My departments plans on two op-eds a year and try to connect them to both a major campaign we’re running and larger issues facing communities. Our larger papers want responses or solutions to problems and won’t even go near anything that sounds like an infomercial, even for National Library Week.
Make sure the topic is relevant to the paper’s readers. A great place to start is by reading the the headlines, knowing what discussions are taking place at council meetings or just listening to what your customers are talking about when they come to the library.
Keep your op-ed customer centric
Tom talks about incorporating stories in your op-ed. I couldn’t agree with him more. Make sure your are writing about your customers and how your library is solving problems for them. Be sure to stay away from stories that simply praise your library like, “I couldn’t live without my library!” Instead find stories about your customers where the library has solved a problem like “I lost my job and the new career center helped me fill out applications online.”
1. Introduce your character
2. Tell the problem he or she is facing
3. Show how the library resolved the problem