Letters to the Editor: Tips

Letters from readers help an editor decide which topics to cover in future news stories or editorials. A well-written letter could result in the paper publishing a full article on Leonard Peltier and his case that will have a broader audience.

Effective Advocacy for Leonard Peltier

First, familiarize yourself with Leonard Peltier and his case.

Then start a dialogue in your community by reaching out to your local media. Click here for newspapers in your state.

Before submitting a letter to the editor, check with your local newspaper for its guidelines. Be certain to follow those guidelines.

Do keep in mind that, in addition to educating the general public, you may have the opportunity to influence your members of Congress. Elected officials carefully monitor the editorial pages of print media to gauge local opinion. By mentioning your senators or representative by name and stating the specific action you would like them to take, you can guarantee that your letter will catch the attention of your members of Congress. In fact, congressional offices use media clipping services to ensure that staff have access to all letters-to-the-editor that mention the legislator by name.

Follow these tips:

Keep It Short—Try to limit your letter to 100-200 words or less, and focus on the single issue, i.e., a grant of Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier. In the first paragraph, state your main point and why the issue is important to you. (What impact does the issue have on the local community? How are you personally invested in the issue?)

Provide facts, quotes, and numbers in the second paragraph.

Use the last paragraph to restate your point and make your recommendation.

Respond to a News Story—Open with a specific reference to a recent news story, editorial, or previous letter. "Recent" means no older than a few days. For national papers, "recent" means no further back than 48 hours.

Make a Local Connection—Your letter will be of more interest to editors of your local paper if you highlight the local impact of a national issue.

Demonstrate Your Reach—If you know that your opinion also represents that of others, be sure to mention it. However, if you want to submit a letter signed from representatives of more than one group, be aware that most newspapers limit signatures to two or three names.

Consider Your Options—Submit letters to your local paper for the best chance of publication, though you may certainly submit to national publications as well. Other options include suburban or neighborhood papers, specialized magazines, ethnic press, religious publications, and college alumni magazines. 

Learn More

Peter Matthiessen

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

Meticulously researched, this courageous book is the definitive work on the Peltier case. The author successfully defended against lawsuits brought in three different states, surviving an eight-year litigation designed to block the book's publication.

Jim Messerschmidt

The Trial of Leonard Peltier

Foreword by William Kunstler. A well-documented and researched study, this book examines the orchestration by the federal government of the wrongful conviction of Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

Leonard Peltier

Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance

Edited by Harvey Arden. Peltier chronicles life in prison. Peltier explores his suffering and the insights it has borne him in the context of American Indians and their struggle to survive.

Spotlight

We the People

We the People have read your Constitution, Mr. Obama.  We also are aware of the clemency application review process (28 C.F.R. Part I, §§ 1.1-1.11) and know that these guidelines do not bind the President. Congress and the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot regulate or otherwise limit the presidential clemency power. The authority to grant clemency to federal prisoners belongs only to the President of the United States (under Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution). You have the power to grant clemency to anyone, for any reason, and at any time.