Amplify Your Voice: Write to Your Local Paper

a photo of newspaper pagesLast night, I had the pleasure of talking during a webinar with activists from all over the country who are concerned about the damaging impact of corporate money in elections.

The focus of last night’s talk was tools and tips for sending a letter to the editor to a local newspaper. Getting a letter published in the opinion pages of your local paper is a great way to raise awareness in your community about the issues that are important to you.

Download the presentation (PDF) and the sample letter to the editor (PDF).

Letters to the editor are a critical part of any campaign in support of progressive reforms. Here are two big reasons why:

1.) Letters to the editor help newspapers gauge what interests their audience. If the newspaper’s editors know that there are locals (like you) who are interested in the problem of corporate money influencing elections, they’re more likely to devote page space to coverage of that issue. Even if your letter isn’t published, it’s probably having an impact that helps your cause.

2.) Decision-makers pay attention to the local paper’s opinion pages. If your letter to the editor is published, chances are it will be seen by your mayor and other local elected officials, state legislations and members of Congress. If you are trying to get support for reform measures such as the Shareholder Protection Act (H.R. 2517, S. 1360), these published letters can be very persuasive.

Lots of factors inform the newspaper’s decision whether to publish a letter to the editor. The big questions they ask: “Is it timely?”

During last night’s webinar, our team (members of the Corporate Reform Coalition) highlighted upcoming events that will make excellent hooks for a timely letter to the editor: the shareholder meetings of 3M (May 8 in Saint Paul, Minn.), Bank of America (May 9 in Charlotte, N.C.) and Target (June 13 in Chicago).

All three of these corporations have shareholder resolutions that, if adopted, would stop them from spending money to influence elections.

Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, CEOs can spend shareholder money on political donations to candidates shareholders may not support, without your knowledge. This is a huge problem from the shareholder’s point of view (and that’s most working people with a 401k or similar retirement investments).

View the presentation (PDF) for talking points about shareholder advocacy against corporate money in politics.

Once you’ve written your letter to the editor, send it to action@citizen.org to let us know. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for letters to the editor that get published online. If you’ve written one that gets published, be sure to let us know so we can share your letters through our social media networks, such as the coalition’s twitter feed: @CorporateReform.

Finally, a special thanks to the folks at People For the American Way, U.S. PIRG and Common Cause (and to our great team here at Public Citizen) who helped make yesterday’s webinar such a success. You know who you are. You are awesome.

Flickr photo by NS Newsflash.