3. LTEs and Opeds

In this section:

1. Writing a Letter to the Editor

2. Sample LTEs

3. Writing an Op-Ed

Writing a Letter to the Editor (LTE):

What is an LTE? A letter sent to a newspaper, to be published in the opinion section, on a current event or in response to something published in the paper. A chance to make your opinion heard in a short, snappy letter. Maximum word count: 150-200 depending on the publication.

Tips for Successfully Publishing your LTE:

  • Respond or react to a recent article in your local paper.
  • Or, if the issue hasn’t been covered, or hasn’t been covered well, introduce it.
  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Support or oppose something, include personal facts or titles to back it up.
  • Keep it short and to the point (150-200 words max, preferably shorter)
    • Remember: people read the shortest letters first.
  • Use your words and story!
    • The samples are a guide, but won’t tell your story as well as you can.
  • Be polite whether the letter is positive or negative.
    • Proofread, proofread, proofread—and try getting a 2nd opinion.
  • Submit it!
  • Follow up with the newspaper.

Talking Points/ Formatting for your LTE:

Suggested format for Opposition:

  1. Personal Anecdote
  2. Vote from your elected official
  3. Impact of coal pollution in your state
  4. Question why your elected official wouldn’t want to stop the impacts of toxic pollution

Suggested format for Champion:

  1. Personal Anecdote
  2. Vote
  3. Impact of coal pollution in your state
  4. Applaud your elected official for standing with families over big polluters.

Choose 1-3 points from below for your letter:

Climate and clean energy initiatives, the EPA, and even climate science are under attack from the US Chamber:

  • The Chamber spends more than any other entity in DC on lobbying and attack ads.
  • They use that power to lobby for ultra-wealthy corporations, such as the biggest corporate polluters.
  • The US Chamber led the pack in spending against climate policy.
  • Leading up to the 2010 elections and during negotiations on a climate and clean energy bill, they spent more than $330 million on lobbying and attack ads.
  • That amount includes $33 million poured into elections: 90% of which went to ultra-right wing candidates who oppose action on climate and clean energy.
  • Recent votes against the Clean Air Act, the EPA, and climate science are the direct result of pressure from corporate polluters and their front groups like the US Chamber in the form of lobbying and attack ads.
  • Elected leaders compromising our health and climate for the profits of wealthy polluters is unacceptable.
  • Elected officials must choose between standing with their wealthy corporate donors and their constituents, and we must hold them accountable for that choice.
  • Everyday American businesses are not represented by the US Chamber’s extreme views or actions, they are standing up to declare “the US Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me.”


(From a concerned citizen)

Dear Editors,

I just read an article about the US Chamber, and was surprised to learn that they are a hugely partisan organization that poured tens of millions of dollars into the midterm elections to support climate science denying candidates.

What about our local chamber? I called to ask, and it turns out that while most local chambers across the country are unaffiliated with the US Chamber, ours is.

US Chamber values are not our community values: the US Chamber is a political attack machine for hire, and right now they have sold out to the richest, dirtiest polluters. They event tried to gut the Clean Air Act!

I am starting a campaign here in Louisville to get fellow businesses to join me in making it clear that the US Chamber does not speak for us. I hope our local Chamber will come around to joining us.


(From the President/Chair of a Local Chamber of Commerce)

Dear Editor,

I am the President of the Great Barrington Chamber of Commerce. I recently received a slew of phone calls in response to the US Chamber’s recent campaign to discredit science on climate change, dismantle the Clean Air Act, and defund pretty much every clean energy initiative.

The US Chamber does not speak for our local Chamber in these actions, and we will continue to stand strong as an independent body promoting the interests of local businesses.

The fact that Senator Scott Brown benefitted from $1 million poured into his campaign by the US Chamber is shameful, and we call on all Massachusetts politicians to refuse funds from the US Chamber and start representing REAL Massachusetts businesses.


(From a local business owner)

Dear Editors:

I run a coffee shop in Lowell, MA and I’m a member of our local Chamber of Commerce. I realized recently that my dues and my business were being used for something vastly different than I had thought.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking dues from our local chamber and using them to oppose climate policy, the Clean Air Act, climate science, and even to support ultra right wing candidates across the country.

The U.S. Chamber does not represent me or any other typical business owner anymore- they have morphed into a mouthpiece for ultra-rich corporations, especially corporate polluters. So why is Senator Scott Brown taking their dirty cash?

The U.S. Chamber can say all it wants, but they certainly do NOT speak for me. I would like to see my elected officials stop taking money from this phony group.


Dear Editor,

I have been the proud owner of Boulder Mountain Sports for 6 years, and I am also a member of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.

I recently realized that our affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce meant that a portion of my dues have gone to funding a lobbying campaign against climate policy and even the Clean Air Act, issues that are close to my heart as an outdoor enthusiast.

With the US Chamber spending millions in our state on attack ads against anyone supporting climate or clean energy programs, I have been happy to see that our Senators Udall and Bennet have not been swayed by the dirty money campaign.

The U.S. Chamber does not speak for me in their war on the environment. Bravo to our Senators for standing with local businesses in protecting our air and climate.


Dear Editor,

I’ve run a small business importing flowers here in Kalamazoo, MI for 15 years. Recently, I found out the US Chamber of Commerce, a group I thought represented interests of small business owners, supported Congressman Fred Upton. Turns out they actually represent only their wealthiest corporate contributors.

As a long-time member of the Kalamazoo Chamber, I wondered what else my dues were financing. Turns out: right wing candidates, like Upton, across the country that want to gut the Clean Air Act. The worst part is those candidates claim they are pro-business, despite the fact that they ignore the interests of small business owners!

There is a difference between pro-small business and pro-corporate profits, and neither the U.S. Chamber of Commerce nor Rep. Fred Upton is pro-business: they are pro-corporate profits. And no, they do not speak for me. Let’s keep dirty money out of our politics.


(From a labor union member)

Dear Editors,

I believe that the time has come for all volunteers, employees, organizations and businesses associated with the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce to seriously reconsider their connection to that organization. The Green Bay chamber has now revealed, for all to see, the radical organization that it has become.

Recently, the chamber openly supported Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, which strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Its “Legislative Agenda,” posted on its website, is as partisan as it gets. It is currently patting itself on the back for becoming accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If you think the Green Bay chamber has a right-wing agenda, you should check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website. The U.S. chamber does not speak for me.

Because of the Green Bay chamber’s recent positions, it has damaged relationships beyond repair. It no longer represents small, independent, locally owned businesses, and is, instead, in the back pocket of corporate interests that do not care about the communities and lives they are destroying.

Writing an Op-Ed:

What is an Op-Ed? It is a short opinion based article, usually 600-800 words. Most newspapers take article submissions from the community for their opinion pages. Think of it as a community perspectives piece, or a longer version of the LTE.

Courtesy of the ACLU, here are some tips on writing your Op-Ed:

  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Explicitly support or oppose something.
  • Personalize the op-ed with an anecdote.
  • Link the op-ed to a current news story but keep the focus local.
  • Follow the particular paper’s guidelines for submission closely.

Suggestions on form:

  • Start with a personal anecdote.
  • Make your main point in the first or second paragraph.
  • Use two, maximum three, supporting points in the following paragraphs.
  • Make sure your paragraphs are short and contain one main idea.
  • Use facts, statistics and studies to support your arguments. Use metaphors to relate complex ideas.
  • Conclude with a paragraph that draws the piece together and links to your opening anecdote.

Sample Op-Ed:

(Note: this op-ed is from Alaska, but gives good examples of the above tips. Notice the use of personal anecdotes, the strong push for local perspective, and the use of a personal hook in the first sentence. Also, notice how the author uses his business- fishing- as an access point to the energy debate.)

Alaskans must fight for renewable energy
COMPASS: Other points of view

We Alaskans are a spirited bunch, independent, capable, with plenty of backbone when confronting difficulties. It’s time to show some of that fortitude.

We’re facing a fundamental dilemma. Alaska, like the rest of the nation, needs energy. But the fossil fuels we rely on so heavily are becoming scarce, cost too much, and when carbon dioxide emissions get absorbed by the ocean, our fisheries are threatened. Logic dictates earnest investment in Alaska’s renewable resources.

There is a wealth of energy waiting to be tapped by hydroelectric dams, wind farms, tidal generators and solar panels, plus atomic if needed. Not far from Anchorage lies yet another source of unlimited energy — the geothermal potential beneath Mount Spurr.

In short, Alaska no longer has to rely on the burning of oil, coal and natural gas. A forward-looking effort to develop renewable resources would quickly begin reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and, in time, lower the cost of energy to consumers. With sufficient will and financing, our renewable resources could provide for the state’s energy needs far into the future, and without the detrimental effects of fossil fuels. The same goes nationwide.

If today’s Alaskans are to leave future generations any lasting legacy, it ought to be access to plentiful, clean energy — energy developed here at home by American businesses employing American workers, not purchased overseas from countries that do not have our best interests at heart.

Burning fossil fuels produces gasses that foul the air, and one of them, carbon dioxide, is acidifying the world’s oceans, threatening directly Alaska’s fisheries, our economy and our way of life. This issue is critical to every Alaskan, especially commercial fishermen, all of us who catch fish for our own dinner tables and those dependent on Alaska’s vital tourist trade.

Alaska fisheries produce more than half the seafood landed in the United States. Were the state a nation, it would rank ninth among seafood producing countries. The industry’s contribution to the state economy is topped only by North Slope oil and gas and expenditures by the federal government. The value of a vigorous fishing industry to Alaska’s future cannot be overstated.

I’ve spent a lifetime ensuring Alaska’s fisheries remain strong and healthy. I’m hardly alone among Alaskans in advocating that we take care of our fish. But finding the right solutions to the planet-sized problems of burning fossil fuels and ocean acidification are well beyond the capacities of states or fishermen alone.

We need our senators to steer substantive action through the federal legislative process. We need law that will establish a new national energy policy, put a price on carbon, reverse ocean acidification and promote renewable energy infrastructure and the jobs that go with it.

Alaska fought for statehood to protect our fisheries. Our leaders should fight equally hard for meaningful legislation needed for a reliable and prosperous future for our grandchildren. Will it mean a lot of hard work? Of course, but since when were Alaskans afraid of that?

Clem Tillion is a former state legislator and a retired commercial fisherman.