The office of Media Relations will solicit and distribute UNLV faculty- and staff-authored opinion pieces on timely issues in the news. The goal is to help UNLV authors share their considerable knowledge and expertise in a public forum: the opinion pages of national and state newspapers and magazines.
The office of Media Relations can help outline an op-ed, review it and/or give additional ideas and approaches in drafting an opinion piece. We also can assist in submitting the op-ed or suggest the best outlets for submission.
What we can offer:
- Assistance with editing. The stylistic requirements of mainstream newspaper and magazine op-eds differ considerably from those of most forms of academic writing. The editor works with authors to craft articles to meet the expected standards of length, tone, style, and readability. The editor also suggests a headline, and writes a short author's biography and cover letter to accompany each submission.
- Distribution. Media Relations can distribute and pitch op-eds to national and state newspapers as appropriate. Because many national newspapers have exclusivity clauses, the editor typically submits op-eds serially to the national press. Op-eds targeted for statewide or local distribution may be submitted to several newspapers in noncompeting markets at once.
- Follow-up. Media Relations tracks submissions and provides hard-copy clippings or Internet links to authors for any op-eds that appear in print. Some newspapers pay small honorariums, which go directly to authors. Media Relations also serves as a point of contact for editors seeking UNLV-authored op-eds.
For questions or assistance with an op-ed piece, contact the office of Media Relations at 895-3102.
What is an "Op-Ed"?
Many newspapers rely on academic experts to put local, state, national, and international events in perspective for their readers through the "op-ed" or opposite editorial page. The name itself does not refer to the writer's opinion — although the writing itself does reflect an opinion — but it is derived from the column's usual placement opposite the newspaper's editorials. Op-eds get their names from that placement in the newspaper. Newspapers, magazines, and other news publications regularly run op-eds to ensure that they present a diversity of opinions on topics of importance to their readers. Since they are longer than letters to the editor, they offer an opportunity for a better developed argument.
Tips for Writing an Op-Ed
The successful op-ed writer functions much like a journalist, but with a strong opinion about the subject matter. Unlike some traditional academic writing, most op-eds should be written with the conclusions or strongest statements in the first two or three paragraphs. As an expert, the op-ed writer should not hesitate to forcefully state his or her opinions right away, and then back them up with strong subsequent paragraphs.
When writing an op-ed piece, keep in mind that your audience is the general readership of the newspaper. Explain briefly words or phrases that may be unfamiliar to readers.
Op-eds are different in style and tone from journal articles and other forms of academic writing. Here are a few suggestions for successful op-eds from the New York Times:
- State an opinion. By definition, op-eds are statements of opinion on controversial matters of public interest. Argue your side strongly; don't hedge, equivocate, or defer.
- Get to the point. State the central thesis of your op-ed in one sentence near the beginning of your piece — usually no further down than the third sentence.
- Structure your piece logically. You should begin with a provocative or original thought that grabs readers and attracts them to read the rest of your piece. Then state your thesis. Then provide supporting evidence or elements of your argument. Last, conclude with a fresh angle or new point that clinches your argument with a single, cohesive message. For example, if you've devoted your piece to a public policy failure, the conclusion is a good place to offer the solution.
- Keep it simple. Write simple, declarative, informal sentences. Compose paragraphs of one to four sentences, rarely more. Use quotations sparingly if at all. Attribute if you must, but keep titles as short as possible.
- Keep it short. Most newspapers won't consider op-eds longer than 750 words. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was 269 words. A concise, to-the-point 500 words is infinitely preferable to a meandering, meaningless 1,000 words.
- When possible, entertain. Remember that no one gets paid to read your piece. Don't be afraid to try a little humor, tell a good anecdote, or otherwise liven up your copy.
Tips for Choosing a Good Op-Ed Topic
- Be timely. Op-eds discuss current news. "Current" means tomorrow, today, or this week, not last month. If you have an opinion on a topic that surfaces in the news periodically, it's a good idea to write the bulk of your piece in advance, then "top" it with whatever the most current news on the matter happens to be.
- Be original. It's fine to write about topics that already receive a lot of coverage, but you need to have an original, fresh, or provocative angle if you expect to see your piece in print. Alternatively, you may enjoy success with a topic that hasn't been extensively covered, but may be equally or more important to readers.
- Consider your audience. Newspapers are intended for a mass audience. As a result, you will have the most success with a topic that is important or meaningful to a large number of people from many different walks of life. If you'd like your piece to appear in a national newspaper, write about an issue of national significance; if you'd like it to appear in Nevada newspapers, focus on a Nevada issue.
- When deciding on your topic, narrow your scope to something that pertains to the readership of that paper. Do not write about oil rights in Alaska if you are sending your op-ed to Tennessee.
- Connect the topic to the readership of the publication. Writing about war in the Middle East for submission to the Las Vegas Sun? Tell Las Vegas readers why they should pay attention. Focusing on a local issue but submitting to a national publication? Be sure to show why the issue has broad appeal beyond Las Vegas.
- Make your argument accessible to a general audience, not just an academic one.
- Don't just attack other groups; make your own point about an issue.
- Bring in local connection to a national issue if possible.
- Know something about the paper you are sending your piece to and the type of pieces they print and adjust accordingly.
- Do not use profane language or commit libel.
- Check the newspaper's guidelines for their rules regarding op-eds. Some papers will only print your op-ed if it has not been sent to another paper. You can check the guidelines for all major papers at this website, or contact The office of Media Relations for assistance.
Once you've written a draft of your op-ed piece, we can assist with editing it, if needed, and getting it to the proper newspaper editor.
It's also important to remember that once an op-ed is published, be sure to take advantage of its publication. Distribute copies of it or email it to others who may find it useful. Please let us know if you have authored a published op-ed so that it can be included in the news reports that are disseminated across campus.
Also know that newspapers welcome letters to the editor from university professors and other specialists in academia.
For questions or assistance with an op-ed piece, contact the office of Media Relations at 702-895-3102.