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Media Watch

The news media can play a powerful role—good or bad—in determining the public discourse about sexual violence and how to prevent it. You can influence how the media talk about sexual violence by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and speaking out when you read an article in the newspaper or online, see a news story on television, or hear a report on the radio that you find offensive or praiseworthy in its coverage.

Writing to a news outlet—be it a newspaper editor or station manager—is an effective way to share your opinion, educate the public, applaud someone for making a positive change that helps survivors or aids in prevention, or criticize unsupportive policies. Elected officials often monitor letters to newspaper editors in particular, so a well-written, well-timed letter can play a role in shifting public opinion and influencing legislation.

Tips for writing a letter to an editor or a station manager

  • Before writing, consult the news outlet’s website for specific guidelines—you can usually find them under the “Opinion” or “Contact Us” section.
  • Submit your letter as quickly as possible, preferably the same day that the story in question appears, and be sure to reference the story.
  • Send letters by e-mail whenever possible (see the news outlet’s website for contact information).
  • Be accurate and avoid personal attacks.
  • Keep your letter short and focus on one or two major points. Include facts, statistics, and other citations to support your position. Be sure to stay under the news outlet’s word limit.
  • Include your name, street address, and phone number. Editors will not run anonymous letters, and they may call you to confirm that you are the sender of your letter. You can, however, request that your full name not be printed.
  • If you are a survivor, think about whether you want to disclose your experience. You don’t have to. Everyone in the community, regardless of their connection to sexual violence, can participate in the discussion.
  • If you are a family member or friend of a survivor, be sure that you don’t disclose the survivor’s information without their consent.
  • When writing to newspapers, consider smaller, weekly publications in addition to larger dailies. The smaller the paper, the more likely your letter will be selected for publication.

For more tips, visit the OpEd Project.

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