Skip to content

Writing Letters to the Editor, Catholic-style

By Matt Abbott
Op/Ed

(The following is an edited version of a presentation I gave on Sept. 25, 2004 at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago. The presentation, sponsored by the Chicago-based Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Media Apostolate, was for those Catholics who desire to write effective letters to the editor to various media outlets. For information about the Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Media Apostolate, visit www.fatherhardonmedia.org; for information about St. John Cantius Parish, visit www.cantius.org.)

My presentation is relatively short, so I would first like to talk about media bias, something that shouldn't be too shocking to anyone here. Then, I'd like to go over points on good letter writing, nicely put together by the Father Hardon Media Apostolate and Terry Sullivan. Finally, I will "open the floor" to any questions you may have.

Regarding media bias, there is an excellent resource - a book by Dr. & Mrs. John C. Willke. It's titled, Why Can't We Love Them Both? In it, I found a couple of interesting items. They first go back to 1981, which seems like a long time ago. But we can assume that what was the case back then in the media is pretty much the same, if not worse, today.

"[A] report was based on 'hour long interviews with 240 journalists and broadcasters at the most influential media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, etc.' Among the findings were that 90% said a woman had the right to choose abortion. Forty-six percent felt adultery was wrong, with only 15% feeling strongly about it, and 76% approved of living with someone of the opposite sex.

"On religion, 50% denied any religious affiliation. Twenty-three percent were raised Jewish, but only 14% were practicing Judaism at the time. Only one in five identified themselves as Protestant, one in eight as Catholic. Overall, however, only 8% went to church or synagogue weekly with 86% attending seldom or never. They were largely male, white, highly educated, with high incomes" (Willke, 329-330).

Fast forward to 1996. "A survey of 139 Washington-based journalists showed that 89% voted for Clinton in '92, 7% for Bush and 2% for Perot, so no change here. Further, only 2% identified themselves as conservative, while the 'moderate to liberal' category claimed 91%" (Willke, 332).

Should we give up on the media? Is it hopeless? "Quite the contrary. We must get acquainted with media people. They will see us as single issue? True, but they must also see us as well-spoken and professional, not irresponsible fire-brands. We must try to educate them. Many media people have gross misconceptions of us and what we stand for" (Willke, 333).

A passage from the Vatican II document, Decree on the Media of Social Communications, also known as Inter Mirifica:

"...The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men's entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God....Since public opinion exercises the greatest power and authority today in every sphere of life, both private and public, every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity in this area. As a result, all must strive, through these media as well, to form and spread sound public opinion...."

Now I will talk a bit about how I go into writing letters. I was actually observing a few sessions of the NOW vs. Scheidler trial in 1998. Of course the original verdict was not in our [pro-lifers] favor. (They were found guilty of "racketeering.") So I felt prompted to fire off a couple of letters on that subject. I sent one to the Chicago Sun-Times, one to the Chicago Tribune and one to the Daily Herald newspaper. At least two of those letters were published....

Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as your inspiration - it's an excellent guide. It's not, however, a good idea to quote directly from it, especially if you are writing to secular newspapers. Catholic newspapers are another matter, but for secular newspapers, it's better to paraphrase.

Letters, of course, do get edited....

Tips for letter-writing: Write to convert, not necessarily confront. Write charitably. Avoid a slap back approach. You can write strongly and still be charitable. A good phrase to use is, "It would appear that..." Submit letters promptly. It's best, I would say, to submit your letters within 24 hours. A general rule: the sooner the better. I think it's best to fax or email. "Snail" mail is good if you are writing to a particular editor, or if you don't intend the letter to be for publication.

Make the chief points first. Letters are typically edited from the bottom up. Which is another reason why shortness and brevity is preferable - and it's less likely that it will be mangled by editors. Also, it's helpful to write in response to a particular story or column in a newspaper. Now, often times, I will submit my letter to several publications, although a few of the major newspapers want "exclusive-only" letters. Avoid criticizing the outlet itself for something they published or broadcast.

In general keep in mind the basic elements of persuasion: to teach, to delight, and to move people.

Plant the seed, and let God do the rest.

Contact

Matt Abbott
IL, US
Matt Abbott - Author,

Email

mattcabbott@hotmail.com

Keywords

Catholic, Abbott

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.