People to Pitch: Placing an op-ed in Pioneer Local

Authoring an op-ed piece (“op-ed” literally means “opposite of the editorial page”) is one way to highlight your organization’s expertise on key community issues, as well as get your name and issue in the ever-shrinking news hole at daily and weekly papers. However, newspapers receive numerous op-ed submissions, and understanding how to write a strong, thoughtful op-ed that editors will want to run is another challenge entirely.

We spoke to Matt Schmitz, managing editor at Pioneer Local, about key points to keep in mind when authoring an op-ed piece.

What should nonprofits keep in mind when writing an op-ed piece?

They should consider the audience of the publication. At Pioneer Local, we’re all hyper-local and have 39 publications. So, writing for us, a nonprofit should keep in mind that the submission has to be by, for and about the people and issues in the community. First thing I would suggest is contacting an editor to pitch your piece. It’s far more of a challenge to write a full-fledge op-ed piece, submit it and have it published. You want to work it out [the details] ahead of time with an editor.

What should be included in an op-ed piece?

When writing the piece, they should start with a strong idea and know the purpose in writing this particular piece. Often many people will start out with a strong topic and end up throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, and that creates a lack of clarity as to what the piece is about. Also, you have to consider that people don’t have a lot of time to spend on each and every article.  So, really the shorter, the better. It’s a challenge for people to write short but being concise is a huge help.

Also, having statistics and other voices incorporated in your piece helps. If you state an opinion, you want to back it up with facts, and when you bring in other voices, it’s another thing that will validate the point of the article.

If, at first, you don’t succeed, what should you do next?

If a group is looking for a quick and easy way to have media coverage, then a letter to the editor could be a good start.  Guest essays are also another option to consider.

Schmitz says nonprofits tend to “swing for the fence” and send their pieces out to many publications. He says this wastes time because these submissions are often deleted, particularly if they have nothing to do with the area the publication is serving. Instead, agencies should focus on the audience base that the publication serves and be considerate of that audience.  In summary, Schmitz says, the easier it is for the editorial staff to receive your submission, the easier it is for the group to be published.

Matt Schmitz has been on the Pioneer Local West Group editorial desk for five years.  He is the managing editor of The Edison Norwood Times Review, Niles Herald-Spector and the Park Ridge Herald Advocate. To contact him, email him at or call 708-524-4433.

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