LTE Tips

WHAT IS AN LTE?

A letter to the editor (LTE) is a letter sent to a publication about issues of concern from its readers, typically as a response to a recent article OpEd or publication, intended for publication. LTEs are a easy and effective way to amplify your voice on drug policy reform issues and during drug policy-related ballot measure elections like referendums, ballot initiatives, and propositions.

 

When Should I write a LTE?

    • LTEs are an easy way to respond to rhetoric which poorly represents sensible drug policy reform in a public setting. It is a n excellent way to explain what a sensible approach to drug policy look slike to an extended audience, one you may not have the opportunity to engage with on campus very often.
    • LTEs can also be a very effective way for you to bring attention to a specific campus drug policy, or set of policies, and apply pressure to campus administration and/or student government to take action
    • LTEs allow you to expand on a favorable drug policy article/op-ed you agreed with. Search for pieces which promote ending drug prohibition, cover the harms of the drug war, and highlight the plight of criminalized and incarcerated persons and expand on their ideas.

 

  • Always respond promptly. A best practice is draft your letter within 24 hours of the publication of the piece you are responding to and submit your letter within 48 – 72 hours after publication of the piece.

 

 

HOW DO I  WRITE a LTE?

  • Select an article or publication. Scan your local paper and follow specific reporters, writers writers, and editorial boards who cover drug policy, criminal justice, and other topics intersecting with ending the drug war.
  • Formulate & outline a complete argument: premise, supporting evidence, conclusion
  • Keep it short and to the point. Many newspapers have limits on how long LTE’s can be, generally 150 – 300 words. Check the limits beforehand, and shorter is always better.
  • Contact your Outreach Director for guidance, edits, revisions, suggestions, etc.

 

Additional Tips:

    • Read previously published LTEs from the newspaper or website to which you’re submitting. This will help you to gain a better understanding of what they typically publish. Pay attention to tone, style, and length. This will give you some insight into what the editors of a given publication will typically publish.
    • Concentrate on one or two main talking points in the letter. The length available for a standard LTE typically does not allow for more than three talking points.
    • Submit your response in a timely fashion. As a best practice, submit your LTE as quickly as possible. The sooner you submit an LTE in response to a recent publication, the more timely it is and the better your chance of it being published.
    • Send the text of your letter in the body of the email. Many newspapers won’t accept letters as attachments).

 

  • When sending your letter, make sure to email each newspaper individually rather than sending a mass message to all of them.

 

  • Make sure to directly reference the editorial you are responding to.
  • Include your full name, SSDP affiliation, and daytime telephone number at the end of your letter for verification purposes.

 

EXAMPLE LTE:

Reform Federal Drug Rules

The article, “Federal drug sentences a complex web,” published on Aug. 8, might give readers the impression that federal drug penalties are lenient and that judges have a good deal of discretion in imposing sentences. The reality is that, under federal laws passed in the 1980s as part of the War on Drugs, many nonviolent drug offenses carry excessively high minimum sentences, and judges are deprived of discretion in sentencing. For instance, Weldon Angelos received a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence for selling marijuana on two occasions. At sentencing, the presiding judge said this punishment was “unjust, cruel, and even irrational,” but his hands were tied.

 

These harsh federal laws have led to the “mass incarceration” that has increased our federal prison population to a level unprecedented in history. In 2014, 50 percent of prisoners were incarcerated for drug crimes, at a huge cost to the country and to the communities and families of those incarcerated.

There are currently bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 2123) and House (H.R. 3713 and H.R. 759) which seek to reduce excessively long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and reduce recidivism. This is a chance to lessen the financial and human cost of our current system and to begin to transform our justice system into something more just. I urge our Sen. Murphy and Blumenthal, and our Rep. Rosa De Lauro, to cosponsor the legislation and urge leadership to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.”

 

MAKE SURE TO LET YOUR OUTREACH COORDINATOR KNOW IF YOU ARE PUBLISHED RIGHT AWAY!

Send your published LTE to outreach@ssdp.org