#597 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #32. Writing Letters and Columns

I am reading less and less newsprint, including the e-mail types of news which compile the news of the day from one particular point of view. Usually these days I tend to find myself skipping over the ‘same old, same old’ spin (the word ‘pundit’ comes to mind), and paying more attention to letters to the editor and columns by unusual suspects.
Still, we subscribe to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and to the Woodbury Bulletin, and are happy to incur the expense.
Todays blog is occasioned by todays (July 17) “Readers Write” in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, particularly the Letter of the Day about the Voter Suppression Amendment. Also I spent some time with the column by Dennis Carstens on the facing page.
Both richly deserve responses (to me, they prove the opposite of what they are contending), but I won’t write letters of response.
Because I know the rules of the road. I recently had a Letter of the Day in the same paper; and it seems I get a column maybe every six months or so. I would be wasting words in response.
But that’s why I’m commenting here.
I know a fair number of people who are quite regular contributors to opinion pages in both metro and local newspapers.
They basically share some traits: they have a thoughtful point of view, they articulate well, and do it briefly. They are better writers than I. More practiced. But, nonetheless, I get published once in awhile.
On this blog column, my number counter says I’m at 262 words.
Usually letters to the editor are limited to 150-250 words (the commentary page will define the terms for the particular newspaper.
Columns are usually under 600 words, 700 max.
If you’re an ordinary person, like I am, you pay close attention to these rules because they are arbitrary and you have no control over them.
If it says 600 maximum, that’s what it means.
The only way to get published is to submit letters or commentaries.
Most will get rejected. Consider it practice.
Forty years ago I heard Alex Haley (“Roots”) give a long and fascinating talk about not only writing the book, but his early history as a writer.
Succinctly, practice, submit, reject, practice….
It took a number of years to become famous.
I won’t be, but I keep at it.
How about you?
390 words.

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