An easy way to educate and persuade a large number of people about hiking and trail issues is through the Letters to the Editor (LTE) section of your local newspaper. You can use a letter to:
- Correct or interpret facts that appeared in an article in the paper;
- Explain the connection between a recent news item and issues that affect hikers;
- Praise or criticize a recent article or editorial;
- Reach elected officials with your message, because they often read the letters to the editor section to gauge local opinion on issues.
How to Get Your LTE Published
Getting your letter published is the key, and with these guidelines, yours will be published in no time.
- Pick an issue, and only one issue. You should discuss only one topic per letter.
- Keep it short and concise. Stick to 3-4 paragraphs under 250 words. (Your newspaper’s length and submission guidelines should be published on their website -- make sure to follow them).
- Write your letter to connect with something timely. A recent article, editorial, or another letter are usually good topics for your own letter to the editor. You might also tie your topic to an anniversary or current event (such as Washington Trails Day).
- Respond to a specific article within 2 days of its publication. Get your letter in right away using email. Most papers will not transcribe letters sent in via fax or snail mail.
- Write from a local perspective. Illustrate how the issue impacts the quality of life of the readers.
- Make your letter personal. Use personal stories where possible. Be inclusive - use the words “I” and “we." If you hike in the area you are trying to protect, say so.
- Write with sincerity and passion. But don’t go over the top. Use common-sense, persuasive language, and avoid jargon. Humor, wit and irony may help people connect with your letter.
- Avoid hostility and bitterness. While animosity in the tone of your letter may help you get published, it could do your cause harm in the long run.
- Don’t just raise problems in your letter. Suggest solutions to the issues you write about.
- Give the readers a way to learn more. Suggest resources for them to get more information, and opportunities for readers to take action, if possible.
- Always include your name, address and phone number in the letter.
- This is important, so that the paper can verify its authorship. Without this information, your carefully crafted letter could end up in the slush pile!
Please let us know if your letter is published. Email Kindra Ramos, WTA’s Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sample Letter to the Editor
Jane A. Hiker
123 Great Outdoors Blvd.
Tacoma, WA 98405
To the Editor:
The Tribune's recent coverage of deferred maintenance at Mt. Rainier National Park confirmed what so many hikes already knew: our nation's public lands are being neglected by Congress.
When we don’t adequately fund our parks, staff is forced to focus on just getting by with day to day operations. They just don’t have the resources they need to help address long standing issues. This can mean amenities essential to hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts suffer including: trails, campgrounds, roads and bridges.
This goes beyond just a few potholes or an out-of-service bathroom. At Mount Rainier, road and bridge maintenance accounts for two-thirds of the park's maintenance needs, which can seriously impact recreation impact. Deferred maintenance is also bad for the environment. It can mean excess erosion, trash overflow at crowded campgrounds and more.
Deferred maintenance means problems are not addressed as they arise, which only causes them to get worse over time – and more expensive to fix.
We need our Senators and Representatives to advocate for the outdoors. Pass the National Park Service 2016 budget request so the service can begin to address maintenance needs and ensure high-quality recreation access for the millions of people who visit our nation's parks each year.
Our National Parks are still the nation’s best idea. We need take care of them as they approach their centennial birthday or else our kids and grandkids won’t be able to enjoy them for the next 100 years.
Jane A. Hiker