Letters to the editor are an easy but effective way to help Keep Squaw True. They educate fellow citizens about what’s at stake in Squaw Valley and the Tahoe-Sierra and they are an important way to demonstrate public opinion to important decisionmakers, whether they sit at a desk in Denver or serve on the Placer County Board of Supervisors.
Read on for tips for writing effective letters to the editor.
Getting published and making your point
- Make one point and make it well. Letters to the editor must comply with strict word limits and there typically is not space to address multiple issues in a compelling manner.
- Make it personal. The letter should clearly communicate why you want a better future for Squaw Valley than KSL’s current plan. Maybe you live in Truckee and work in Tahoe City (or vice versa) and are concerned about the increased traffic. Maybe you live in the Bay Area and come to the mountains to get away from city life and not to spend more time around highrises. Or maybe you have fond childhood memories of summer dips in the waterfalls of Squaw Creek and want that, not a massive indoor water park, for your own children. Whatever your angle, making it personal makes it more powerful.
- A typical structure for an effective letter is:
- State the general problem/issue/threat. No need for sensationalism but this should be written to grab the reader’s attention.
- Elaborate on the issue. Make it specific.
- Provide a solution, in both general and specific forms.
- Conclude with a summary and the main message that you want to convey.
- Relate your letter to a recent article. While this is not a strict requirement at all news outlets it demonstrates that you are a reader and will increase your chances of getting published.
- Read all of the rules for the specific newspaper you are submitting to. Follow them!
Below, find an example of a LTE we submitted to Sacramento Bee following (most) of these basic rules. The Sacramento Bee is tough since they limit you to 150 words.
Re: Drought alters face of Tahoe Tourism
The drought is tough, but irresponsible development, not a run of poor snow years, is the biggest threat to Squaw Valley and the Tahoe-Sierra.
KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 and is asking Placer County’s permission for a resort development unlike anything North Lake Tahoe has ever seen—four city blocks worth of highrise condo hotels, a 108’ tall 90,000 square foot indoor water and amusement park near the existing village, and timeshare “cabins” in the mouth of Shirley Canyon.
When the snow returns, decisions made in the coming months will determine whether or not it falls on a resort true to the mountains and the people who love them.
Rules and procedures for letters to the editor at local news outlets
Submitting a letter to the editor is relatively straightforward, but you must pay careful attention to the requirements of each individual news outlet.
Below I’ve identified the primary news outlets that are important for spreading our message and influencing decisionmakers regarding Squaw Valley and listed each one’s policies concerning letters to the editor.
The Auburn Journal utilizes an online form for LTE submission. That form, which asks for name, address, telephone #, and email is available at:
Letters should be no longer than 200 words and must include a name, address and phone number and must be signed or confirmed by the editor. Letter writers are limited to one every 30 days
Tahoe Daily Tribune/Sierra Sun Times
The Tahoe Daily Tribune/Sierra Sun Times uses a webform for LTE submissions. The form is available at: http://apps.tahoedailytribune.com/utils/forms/index2.php?formId=lettertoeditor.
Official guidelines for letters are copied below.
The decision to print any submission is completely at the discretion of the Tahoe Daily Tribune editor. Letters must include the author’s name, hometown, affiliation (if any) and phone number (for verification of authorship only). Form letters and letters considered libelous, obscene or in bad taste will not be printed. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Tahoe Daily Tribune reserves the right to edit all letters. Because of space constraints, please limit your letters to 300 words. Letters containing long lists of names will not be printed. The deadline for submissions is noon, three days before publication.
Moonshine Ink does not list specific LTE guidelines however short and to the point is good for this format. Limiting the letter to 250 words or less is a good rule of thumb. Submissions, including your name, email address, telephone contact #, and address, can be sent directly to editorial department at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their contact form at: http://www.moonshineink.com/connect.
Reno Gazzette Journal
Letters and columns may be published and/or distributed in print, electronic and other forms. Letters to the editor can be sent electronically by either e-mailing them to email@example.com or using their online form. You can also fax your letters to the editor at (775) 788-6458 or send them by USPS to Reno Gazette-Journal, Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 22000, Reno, NV 89520. Letters are limited to 200 words and may be edited for length and clarity. Submissions that are considered potentially libelous will not be published. Writers are limited to one letter every two months.
The Sacramento Bee utilizes a web form to collect letters to the editor. To be considered for publication the Bee imposes a 150 word limit and a requirement that the letter responds to a specific story or letter previously published in the Sacramento Bee. They ask that an individual only submit one letter every 30 days. Due to the high volume of letters they ask you not to call to confirm receipt.
The form, available at http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/submit-letter/, also asks for your name, postal address, daytime phone number, email address, the date and headline of the story or letter to which you’re responding and a suggested headline.
San Francisco Chronicle
You can submit letters to the editor of 200 words or less at: www.sfgate.com/submissions.
Letters should be 200 words or fewer. Shorter letters have a better chance of publication.
San Jose Mercury News
Submit via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to put letter to the editor in the subject line. You must also include full name, address, and phone number.
Letters may also be submitted via fax @ (408) 271-3792.