Letters to newspapers, magazines and other forms of print media are one of the most powerful tools in the armory of the Green Senior. They give you the opportunity to communicate with an audience that is appropriate to what you want to say - an audience that may be very receptive in responding to your words.
Although it may seem that the world is being swamped by electronic information such as blogs and mass e-mailings, “Letters To The Editor” remains one avenue that is usually open to everyone. In fact there is a huge section of the population for which the Internet remains unwelcome or closed, but for which newspapers and magazines are a valuable source of information.
According to Nielsen/Netratings, less than 50% of the USA population is actually “active” on the Internet. This figure is considerably less for most other parts of the world.
Research by Pew Internet shows that around 50% of over 60’s do not use the Internet at all, and this figure could be as low as 35% “active” users. Pew also says that “the best place to reach someone age 70 and older is still offline”.
This means that a large part of the audience for Green Seniors can only be reached through the print media, and that is where Green Seniors really have an impact in getting other seniors actively involved in the environment.
Our first “Green Hero”, Irene Willis, had the following letter published in a local free newspaper (circulation of over 60,000) this week. Her letter is a great example of how Green Seniors can get powerful messages across to ordinary people:
“The politics of the last century keep repeating themselves in this, the 21st century.
“The third road off Canvey [Island, Essex, UK]. Local MPs always remind us of this just before an election and a petition has started online.
“I cannot believe that with all the evidence that the climate is warming up beyond a point which the planet can sustain we still have these outdated campaigns based on the needs of the last century.
“One of the main causes of CO2 emissions is transport and cars play a large part of this. Before the claim by motorists that the cars are now designed to emit less emissions, this is negated by the increase in traffic.
“The green solution is to travel less and if you do, cycle or walk first, then use public transport and lastly use the car, unless you are disabled, old or there is no other choice.
“Until the 4x4 driver gives that vehicle up because he cares about those killed in the floods in Bangladesh we will not save the planet.
“In these days of instant news it is clear now that we are all linked together and rely on each other and therefore we must all share the responsibility and the suffering that each of us cause.”
There are a lot of things that make this letter good:
· The words are simple and easy to understand by almost everyone
· A lot of useful information is put over in a short space
· The letter is short, punchy and to the point
· It is topical and linked to an issue that is relevant to many people reading it
If you want to write a letter to a newspaper or magazine then keep all of the above in mind, and follow the tips below to ensure that your letter gets published:
1. National newspapers and magazine receive thousands of letter submissions every week, local publications far less. You stand a better chance of being published if you start small.
2. Find out a bit about the audience, based on the type of publication you are writing to, so you can alter your letter to make it more appealing and relevant.
3. Write to the address given on the letters page, not forgetting to give your name, address and telephone number. Publications rarely publish letters without this information.
4. Keep the letter to below about 300 words, unless the publication encourages longer ones. A short paragraph that reads well is better than a long, sprawling letter that loses the audience.
5. If possible, type your letter, and make sure you have someone check your grammar, spelling and the readability of your letter. Don’t be afraid to change it completely if you cannot get your point across well the first time.
6. If you don’t get published, then persevere. If you do, you must have got something right, so write to other publications, and keep writing – you have become a campaigner!
A single letter in a newspaper with even a small circulation may be the difference between someone doing nothing and doing something, so what are you waiting for?
Good luck with your letter writing.