Develop an op-ed

A few examples of SFU op-eds in the media

The basics

  • An op-ed allows you to speak to specific audiences in your own words through the media
  • Op-eds run around 700 words
  • They open with a hook – a short, punchy intro that gets your basic point across while drawing the reader in to learn more
  • They take a stand, providing an argument in favour or against a certain course of action
  • They are argumentative, but are well supported by facts
  • They include an interesting anecdote (or two) that buttresses your point
  • They bring a unique perspective to current topics of discussion
  • They are well-written using plain language (as per Ottawa Citizen: ‘lose the jargon and fuzzy, academic vocabulary.’)

Answer this at the outset: Why should anyone care about this topic?

Newsworthy characteristics

  • Currency: Is this an ongoing topic (ie. Affordability, Donald Trump) that comes up frequently in the news?
  • Timeliness: Is the Op-Ed addressing an issue that is currently all over the news?
  • Conflict: Does your Op-Ed provide a critical perspective that disagrees with a prevailing narrative?
  • Local: Will your writing topic be of interest to local audiences reading the media source you are pitching?
  • Unique: Does your perspective stand out from what everyone else is saying about the topic?
  • Impact: Does the topic impact many people? The more people the topic impacts, the more people will likely be interested in it.

Pitching your op-ed

  • Identify a publication that might be interested (check that they haven’t recently published an op-ed on a similar topic OR if so, that your opinion adds to this issue)
  • Find the op-ed or commentary editor’s contact information online
  • Send an email to the editor with a brief one-paragraph outline of your op-ed
  • Focus the “pitch note” on the unique perspective you are offering and tie in why it is a newsworthy topic
  • Include a line highlighting your qualifications and title
  • Copy your op-ed below your pitch note in the text of the email
  • Be prepared to send a headshot if your op-ed is accepted
  • Allow for a week or so from the date you submit to the date it is published
  • Be patient and practical. Big publications like the Globe and Mail receive dozens of submissions a day. Few make it to print.
  • Papers do not pay a freelance fee for opinion pieces.
  • Don’t submit something you have submitted or published elsewhere – they will want first consideration of your work. If you are not successful, you can move on and submit to another publication.
  • Consider reusing your op-ed your own digital channels (LinkedIn, SFU Faculty Blog, Medium)