ESPM 194b Area of Concentration Op-Ed Rachel Morello-Frosch Advocacy writing is a critical tool for.

ESPM 194b
Area of Concentration Op-Ed
Rachel Morello-Frosch
Advocacy writing is a critical tool for environmental policy-making, public education and effective activism.  One of the purposes of this class is to encourage students to develop and frame arguments about technical issues in language appropriate to policy settings and public venues outside of academia.
 
Op-ed pieces are written by people who are not staff members of a newspaper to present an argument or perspective on current issues.  Op-eds are different from the columns by staff writers that also appear on the editorial pages, but are found on the page “opposite the editorials” (hence the term op-ed).
 
This assignment entails writing a concise and compelling op-ed piece (600 –800 words) that advances an argument for action on any issue in your Area of Concentration. In addition to handing in your op-ed piece and any newspaper stories related to it, you are asked to identify a media outlet and encouraged to submit your piece for publication.  Possible venues include, online publications, national and local newspapers, and even radio commentaries.
 
Your piece should focus on one identifiable issue or question and advocate that a specific course of action be taken.  Part of your argument should be based on technical or scientific information. You may wish to look at op-ed pieces in current newspapers to see examples of this form of writing. You may select any topic related to society and environment in your Area of Concentration.  This includes a topic of interest to you or that’s relevant to your work.  In selecting your topic, you need to define a question or issue that has a policy or advocacy solution.  Your piece should identify the policy issue of concern, discuss the technical or scientific findings that illuminate the topic and support your position, and present an argument for action that should be taken to address the issue or question.
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Make sure you put a one-sentence byline on your op-ed.  A byline can be something as simple as:  “John Doe ensures that readers know who you are and who you represent.  You must also indicate at the end of your op-ed, the outlet for which you are planning your piece.  I’ve had several students in the past get their work published, so please submit your work.  You have nothing to lose.
 
Tips for writing good op-eds:
 
1) Op-eds are NOT short term papers—instead hammer home a single idea.  Unlike your term paper assignment, the op-ed requires you write like an advocate for a diverse audience that may not have any knowledge about your topic.  In other words, get to the point quickly, don’t cite, and immediately tell people what you think they should do. The key to a successful op-ed is to clearly explain what you are addressing and why people should care about it. Although you’ll have to make several points along the way to show readers you’re both knowledgeable and credible, those points should all support one opinion that you want readers to understand when they have finished reading. If you can’t state your op-ed’s main thesis in one clear, declarative sentence, stop writing and focus your energy there.
2) Be specific:  In making an argument about a policy action, be specific about who should take the recommended action.  In general, it is better to say that Congress should pass a law, or the governor should issue an order, or that residents of Berkeley should alter their behavior than to say that “society” should care about or address something.  Specifics and details make writing compelling and interesting.  3) Be interesting first: (And remember: facts are not inherently interesting, so use them strategically and sparingly).  You’ll need facts and data to back up your argument, but readers need to be interested before they will fully engage. Therefore, tell a story, ask a question, use a common phrase, or make it personal to draw in your reader.  If you can introduce real people into your op-ed, do so before you dive into the data. Use accessible language and select arguments and evidence that are likely to be most persuasive to the readers of the newspaper to which you would like to send your piece. Neither jargon, nor abbreviations, nor technical terminology are appropriate for op-eds.
4) Know your audience: If you write for the New York Times, you have a national audience.  If you write for the SF Chronicle, the Daily Cal, or the Berkeley Daily Planet, you have a local audience.  One will know what the “East Bay” is; the other won’t have a clue.
5) Make it sound good:  Like good speeches, op-eds should sound good when read aloud. They should have a cadence, intermingling short sentences with longer ones. If your piece reads smart but sounds boring, it is probably the latter.  Say your piece and get off the stage. The longer and more complex your op-ed, the harder it will be to understand.  Do not show off your UC Berkeley education with five-syllable words. Leave out anything that isn’t completely necessary.  Less is more. Always.
5) Use a catchy title to capture readers’ attention.
 
Read some op-eds in a local or national newspaper in their entirety, looking closely at how the authors open their pieces (i.e. do they pose a question, make a shocking statement, make it personal, or use a blunt approach?).  Look also at how they conclude their op-eds. These endings tend to be short and to the point. In many of these pieces you can read the title, introduction, and concluding paragraph and know what the piece says without having to read the whole thing.  You should strive for that objective in your own op-eds as well.
 

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