PRACTICE YOUR AUTOGRAPH
Little signatures lead to big change.
Signing a petition may seem like a drop in the bucket, but hundreds of petitions have led to tangible change in both local and federal politics (find some examples here). Many legislative offices have policies that guarantee they’ll look at a petition if it gathers a certain number of signatures within a given time period.
Pro Tip: Before starting a petition, make sure you research the legal context of your proposition to boost the chances your idea could be implemented. For example, if you want to start a petition through the White House’s site, make sure the issue is a federal one, and not one granted to state governments (i.e the administering of elections).
If you’d like to take things a step further and attach your own words to your name, writing an op-ed for a local newspaper is another excellent way to make your voice heard. Op-eds stick around in online search engines, so your writing could reach a huge audience over time.
When deciding where to submit your article, consider which publications’ audience would be most interested in your argument. For example, if your concern will impact your own neighborhood more than others, the LA Times might not be the best platform.
Don’t forget about special-interest magazines with focuses related to your issue. Some blog-style news publications, like the Huffington Post, publish op-eds that concern a range of geographical locations. Or, if the issue is relevant to the UCLA community, the Daily Bruin publishes students’ opinion pieces regularly — here’s the link to submit.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to one newspaper, browse their previously published op-eds to get a sense of the articles’ typical style and format. Op-eds are generally written somewhat like essays, with a clear “thesis” at the beginning and several “body paragraphs” supporting your claim. Creativity is welcome and can heighten the appeal of your submission, so long as you maintain a fairly formal style.
Here’s an example of an LA Times submission regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses, an issue relevant to UCLA. And here’s a student submission to the Huffington Post about the fetishizing of minority students.
Newspapers can’t accept all op-ed submissions, so there’s no guarantee your piece will ultimately get published. If the issue is not timely and the newspaper’s guidelines allow it, you can submit the article multiple times!
Q: How many signatures does a petition need?
A: It varies based on the legislative office. On the federal level, if a petition to Congress gets 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the the White House’s petition site says Congress is required to respond.
Q: How long should an op-ed be?
A: It varies, but most op-ed articles are about 750 words long (that’s about a page or two). Generally, the publication’s submission guidelines will give you a sense of how long your piece should be. As always, concision is key — the longer an article is, the less likely someone is to read it to the end.