Sometimes it’s not enough to be right. Publishing an opinion piece is one of those times. To help potential contributors with pitches to the opinions section we’re running this helpful guide of tips and tricks.
It should be new, but not a hot take.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a hot take is, it’s a quick reactionary opinion piece designed to grab attention instead of make people think. I’d recommend listening to the Yes Yes No segment of Reply All’s Episode 37 for more info on it. The benefit of a hot take is that they are a new angle on something. The downside is they lack depth. A lot of depth.
A good opinion piece is both comprehensive and a new argument. For example, the controversy over the Cornwallis statue. We don’t publish over the summer at The Gazette. This summer there was much ado about the Cornwallis statue. But it was summer and there were beaches and patios to be lounged at. By the time I got around to writing about Cornwallis all the angles on legacy and colonialism were taken by professional journalists. So, what’s left? After poking around Cornwallis’ history (to win debates with friends on previously mentioned patios) it seemed like maybe there wasn’t really a legacy. Which was new, so that’s the piece we ran.
Writing for The Gazette provides an excellent avenue to be new. How does whatever is going on in the world affect Dalhousie University and/or students in general?
A pitch is not an article.
There is nothing worse than pouring heart and soul into a piece and then having an editor reply with a variation of “Thanks, but that doesn’t work for us.”
To save your mental health, a pitch should be a concise email about a paragraph in length and look something like this.
This is the thing that’s happening that I want to write about: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/thing-that-is-happening.
My take on the issue is the following: [insert your take on the issue]
Here is some contextual information and why I think it’s important. This is what I’m adding to the conversation.
It will be about X00 words and I will have it to you by DATE.
Name and Contact information.”
If the editor doesn’t respond, follow up a couple days later. Alternatively, sign up to be on our contributor list and we’ll send you emails with things we’re looking for people to write about.
That’s all that’s needed as a first step to get a piece published.
Even though it’s opinion it still needs to be correct.
An opinion piece is not news. That doesn’t mean it that opinion pieces can take liberties with facts to make a point.
A good example happened with the DSU and their Canada Day boycott. They meant to vote to boycott Canada Day, but due to an error they didn’t have a legal vote in time. The vote to boycott Canada Day happened on the 19th of July. They didn’t officially boycott Canada Day. Writing an article without getting the DSU to confirm that yes, they did in fact boycott would have to say ‘the DSU intended to boycott,’ or something similar.
Make sure your pitch has no typos or other errors. It sends a signal to the editor that maybe the piece will require a large time commitment to edit. It might not be worth the time, no matter how interesting the premise.
Meet the deadlines with a good product to ensure future pitches well received.
Be responsive. If an editor has questions about meaning or where facts came from be quick with replies.
Make sure your final piece has your name, date and word count at the top of the page.
We’ll always accept pitches. If you want to get regular emails about specific things we want people to write about, or if you have any questions about pitching or anything feel free to reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who are very interested in opinion writing both Lezlie Lowe’s the Foundations of Journalism and David Swick’s Opinion Writing courses are highly recommended.