Letters to the Editor: YOU can put Fair Trade in the News

The 2006 midterm elections proved that fair trade is good politics as well as good policy. Across the country, candidates advocating a new, fairer direction for trade policy defeated anti-fair trade incumbents.

Despite the widespread demand for change, the Bush administration is continuing to push to expand NAFTA with the U.S. Panama, U.S.-Peru and U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreements. One important way that you can help make sure Congress sticks to its fair trade mandate is by writing a letter to your local newspaper. Letters to the Editor show your representative that you are paying attention to their votes and are also a great way to get the word out to your local community!

See below for some tips, example letters and tools for sending your letter in.

A Few Quick Tips on Writing a Letter to the Editor:

1) Make it short: Most newspapers run letters that are between 150 and 200 words. Some smaller papers will print longer letters, and some papers have "forum" sections where they print longer pieces, but your chances of being published increase if you keep it short and to the point.

2) Make it spicy: Newspapers are businesses and they want people to enjoy reading. You don't have to overdo it, but a little wit goes a long way in getting your letter published.

3) Make it personal or local: Editors are wary these days of letters that are too general. The more personal and/or locally relevant you make your letter, the better the chance that it will run. One way to keep the focus local when talking trade is to reference businesses that have closed locally due to unfair trade policies you can look up a list of federally registered job losses due to trade by state or by city in our online database.

4) If you can, reference an article published already in the newspaper: But my newspaper didn't run anything on trade in the first place, you say. That's okay! Reference a more general recent article about the economy, immigration, or foreign policy then link that issue back to trade. Don't worry too much over this if you are unsure, it is not necessary to relate it to another article, only a bonus. Most medium-sized papers will also publish letters about issues that haven't been covered in recent articles too, so don't let this stop you!

Examples: Here are a couple of Letters to the Editor that were published recently

Concern about a bad trade vote in Raleigh, North Carolina (pdf)
Note reference to previous article in the first line

Thanks for a good trade vote in Huntsville, Alabama (pdf)
No previous article for this letter to reference, but it was still published

Need more background info? Explore our website, check out our report on the midterm elections, or read up on the Peru and Colombia FTAs.

How to send your letter in?

Email is the best way to send in your letter to the editor. Most newspapers have a designated email address for letters - sometimes they make it hard to find though! The best place to look is on the opinion page, which you can usually find by clicking a link on the sidebar of your newspaper's website.

Another option is to use our website to identify local papers and find their websites. Select your state below to get started! After identifying the appropriate paper(s), you can also use this service to actually send your letter.

Was this helpful? Have other questions or need more info? Send us an email and we'll see what we can do! Email David Edeli at dedeli@citizen.org.