Magazine article The Masthead

Weeding the Fields of Others' Dreams

Magazine article The Masthead

Weeding the Fields of Others' Dreams

Article excerpt

Had I known how many op-ed submissions are automatically trashed, I might not have worked so much overtime at my old job. My employers at a nonprofit, issue-advocacy organization clearly wasted their money having me chase down news pegs to use as launching pads for communicating a message to the masses.

Today, I watch op-ed submissions come in and can't help but feel empathy for the armies of laboring writers who produced them. That empathy cannot drive decisions about what is published in the limited amount of space we have to showcase the best of today's opinions, however. Quality content must rule those decisions.

Finding quality in the mailbag can be time-consuming. Most often, the credibility of the source is unknown. The submissions that do carry impressive or familiar names are sometimes ghost-written. In more home-grown attempts, facts go uncited and need to be verified. Submissions are reliably painfully long, incorporating every idea one has ever had. Most must be AP-style scoured.

But clean-up time or lack of identity shouldn't doom the good or thought-provoking idea, should it? Surely every editorial writer had hundreds of worthwhile points to make long before a publisher was crazy enough to publish his or her thoughts on a daily basis. So here are some suggestions for weeding the field of other people's dreams.

* Skim the first several graphs. One paragraph alone usually isn't enough, as non-journalists are tempted by the long, winding path when getting started.

* Since content is key and duplication is wasteful, ask yourself whether the piece duplicates an opinion you have just run or is similar to several opinions available to you via reliable sources. If so, toss it.

* Next question: Does the piece come from a person who reads or subscribes to your paper? If it does and if the topic is of a local nature or successfully rebuts something published in your paper, seriously consider spending the necessary time to scrub it and run it. …

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