Write Your Own Op-Ed

One way you can take action for your campaign is to write or recruit an advocate to write an op-ed for your local newspaper, magazine, blog, community, or school newsletter. Look for an advocate who is credible on the topic and well-known in your community to sign your op-ed, as they will likely draw in more readers for the publication. A recognized person in the community, a person with a strong personal story, or an expert in the issue area is a good place to start.

An op-ed is a written opinion editorial published in a local, regional, or national media outlet. Sometimes it’s a personal, emotional story—other times the facts are presented straightforward. Many people like to read op-eds because community ideas are important, and they can’t get those same opinions in objective journalism. When you write about your cause publicly, you’re spreading awareness to legislators, journalists, and members of your community, giving them the chance to learn more about the issue, form their own opinions about your cause, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.

Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your op-ed can be either emotional or rational. It all depends on the story you want to tell. The sample emotional op-ed below is an example of a soft-sell. It encourages readers to care about what the author cares about and uses personal touches to emphasize why this is important to the signer. A hard-sell op-ed presses the urgency of the issue and uses words like, “can’t,” “refuse,” “never,” and “now.”
  • A rational introduction often includes statistics and logical explanations for why your issue is important. An example sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many people in America struggle to stay healthy. Increasing access to healthy food in neighborhoods will help to fight obesity.”
  • A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and also makes them curious enough to read it.
  • You can also choose an influential signer; someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a doctor, researcher, or politician, and who can help you gain attention or earn a placement in a high-profile publication. Make sure to include the signer’s contact information—name, title, organization (if needed), e-mail, and phone number—in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.

Do you think your community is ready to learn more in an op-ed? Let’s get started by breaking down the sample emotional op-ed below.

Headline

Ex: How can we be healthy without healthy food?

Author’s name

Ex: Sally Brown, Parent

It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.

We all want to see our kids grow up healthy.

We want them to have more opportunity to be physically active, we would love for them to walk or bike to school on their own, but there aren’t sidewalks or crosswalks at busy intersections, so we drive them instead. We would like for them to play outside with their friends on the weekend, but the school playground is padlocked when school isn’t in session and the city park a few blocks away isn’t safe—the equipment isn’t maintained, so they invite their friends over to play video games instead.

We want our kids to eat healthy foods. That’s not as simple as it should be either. In our neighborhood—and in many other communities and neighborhoods across the state—we don’t have access to affordable healthy foods. [Describe the situation in your community. No grocery store? Only convenience stores? Did the supermarket close down? How many miles do you have to drive to get to affordable, fresh food?]

Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach, and as a result, the number of diet-related diseases—especially among children—are on the rise. Research shows that the closer a family lives to healthy food outlets the more likely they will choose the healthier option.

Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.

We need to take action to ensure that affordable healthy food is available in our state—especially for our children. [STATE] has the ability to change the landscape of neighborhoods without access to healthy foods through a healthy food financing initiative. These initiatives can meet the financing needs of supermarket and grocery store operators who want to come into underserved communities, which in turn can bring jobs and healthy food options into our communities.

Remember to include a link at the end of your piece so that your readers know how to join your movement or create a campaign of their own.

Help our children grow up healthy by visiting VoicesForHealthyKids.org/healthyfoodaccess.

Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.

Word Count: 304