Recap: Writing Op-eds: How to Get Your Voice Out There

By Justine Sutton

Wednesday, February 2nd at 5:30pm, AWC-SB members and guests gathered on Zoom for the chapter’s monthly meeting, always offering relevant presentations on a variety of topics of value for communicators in attendance.

This month, AWC-SB was proud to present a panel discussion, “How to Make Your Case, Get It Published, and Change the World.” Three panelists shared their experiences and advice to help attendees craft an op-ed that can be a fun, inspiring, and informative call to action.

Moderator, Lois Phillips, PhD, is the founder of AWC-SB and co-author of the Women Seen and Heard series. Lois’ op-eds have appeared in Pacific Business Times, Noozhawk, and Ms. She teaches her clients to deliver pitch-perfect presentations, and currently blogs about women’s speech, language, and style. www.loisphillips.com

Panelists:

Nomi Morris directs the Journalism track in UC Santa Barbara’s Professional Writing Minor and teaches opinion writing. She got her start at the Toronto Star, for whom she covered the opening of the Berlin Wall, then began teaching after a two-decade career in journalism. Nomi joined UCSB’s full-time faculty five years ago after teaching at The USC Annenberg School of Journalism and chairing Brooks Institute’s Visual Journalism program. She has been published in Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, among many others. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Middle East Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction). 

Katie Davis is Chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter and serves on Sierra Club California’s Executive Committee, Sierra Club’s Marine Team, the CEC’s President’s Council, and California Climate and Energy Committee. A former VP of Web and Ecommerce at Citrix, she became a climate change speaker and advocate when in 2012 she trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Her letters and op-eds have been published in the Santa Maria Times, Santa Maria Sun, The Independent, Santa Barbara News Press, Pacific Coast Business Times, Montecito Journal, Noozhawk, Edhat, Coastal View, Los Angeles Times, and The Atlantic.

Giana Magnoli is managing editor at Noozhawk.com, guiding newsroom coverage of everyday stories and special projects, including grant-funded investigations and solutions journalism. She earned her journalism degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. @magnoli (and contributions to the @noozhawknews account) 

After introductions of our moderator and panelists, a rich and informative discussion followed, with so many useful tidbits of wisdom on opinion writing. The sadly salient point was made that for women, it is especially important to learn these skills, as we are not automatically “granted” a voice in public discourse and it can be challenging to find the respect when expressing oneself.

DO:

~Make it personal–why is it important to you?

~Make it timely—why is it important now?

~Make it appealing–use what drew YOU to the subject to craft your angle on the story

DON’T:

~Use jargon or presume your readers have enough context to understand the situation

~Lecture your readers or tell them how to feel—you’ll elicit their feelings with your words

~Write long, rambling letters

“Be real, be local, be brief.”

–Giana

“Don’t just assert things, use facts and data and examples.”

–Katie

“Journalism shows the personal ramifications of larger policy issues… the human aspect that resonates with everyone is what will draw readers.”

–Nomi

Lisa Osborn, President of AWC-SB and News Director at KCSB-FM, said, “Being familiar with the publication you are pitching will go a long way toward getting your opinion piece published.”

As a bonus, a set of informative and useful guides were emailed to all participants after the meeting, with more detailed directions for writing op-eds and other opinion pieces. 

“I’d love to see this information taught as early as 4th grade, when students start working on citing and responding to texts,” shared Lisa Danhi, AWC-SB Secretary.  “Expressing an opinion based on facts and social context is a valuable, broadly applicable skill.”

Thank you to all involved for encouraging communication professionals to share their big ideas with the public in an easy and effective way!

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Member Spotlight: Mary-Ann Bendel

Mary-Ann Bendel is a journalist who has enjoyed her work, which has taken her to all seven continents. She’s written for some of the best-known news organizations, including CBS, USA TODAY, and Entertainment Tonight. A career highlight: Spending three months on the MV Gondwana, the Greenpeace ship in Antarctica, which was doing the first environmental protests at all the bases there. As an interviewer for USA TODAY, Mary-Ann has talked to many recognizable names and world leaders including The Dalai Lama, Jonas Salk M.D., Lucille Ball (she cried), presidents of El Salvador and Finland, and Benjamin Netanyahu (twice). In 2019 she received a Professional Achievement Award from her alma mater, Marquette University for reporting as a pioneering woman journalist.

Next month’s meeting, March 2nd, will feature a presentation by AWC-SB member and local journalist, Starshine Roshell: “LinkedIn 2.0—Amplify Your Impact.” We are crossing fingers that the April meeting can be held in person—stay tuned!

AWC-SB Women of Achievement Awards—Friday, April 29, 2022

“Navigating Uncharted Waters,” honoring six resilient communicators who work for the County of Santa Barbara, with emcee Paula Lopez. Click here to learn more.

Click here to purchase your tickets today