Why Your Op-Ed Will Never Be Published on Newspapers
By Dong Xue
If you are writing an Op-Ed piece for newspapers, chances are that it will never be published. You spent days or weeks to brew an opinion idea which you think is incomparably excellent and uniquely hit the point. Then you spent some sleepless nights to write it into a newspaper style article. Then you selected your favorite newspaper and send it to the Op-Ed editor. Then you spent another couple of weeks waiting for a response. If you are lucky, you will get a “do-no-reply” style email, telling you that your submission will not be used, and they do wish you the good luck to get it published elsewhere. But most of the Op-Ed writers are not as lucky as you are, they just don’t get anything back, leaving them wondering if article has actually been sent.
But you are not the one who can easily be discouraged. You didn’t even bother to reply that “do-no-reply” email. You just followed the advice and sent your article to somewhere else. Then another waiting cycle begins. After about a dozen rounds, if you are really determined, you begin to realize that the topics you are talking about is about couple of months old (means way too old in today’s news pace) that you don’t even think that it fits to be published. Then your beautifully written piece will get to the only destination, trash basket. (Some people choose to archive their articles in a safe place called a recycle bin, and I totally agree with them.)
After your time and talent was wasted, you will probably start to blame yourself. Maybe your opinion didn’t hit the point, or it hits the right point too hard. Maybe it’s too short, or too long. Maybe you English is not good enough. Or, maybe you didn’t carefully check the grammar errors. Then you start to compare your piece with the published ones to try to find a clue. Then you would surprisingly find out that you piece is nothing worse than the ones on the papers. At this time you would be totally confused.
But if you read very carefully those opinion articles already published on the papers, and if you pay special attentions to the last line after the article, you will easily find out that those pieces were not written by someone like you. They were all written by Fortune 100 guys, Nobel laureate professors, corporate CEOs, former presidents, and at least, senators and congressmen. Now you probably will get a clue that why your hard working piece finally ended up in the trash can. If you still insist on finding a reason, I can assure you that it’s not because you didn’t hit the point. It’s very possible that you hit the right point and hit it very hard, maybe too hard that even the American free presses could not bear that impact. It’s not because your piece was too short or too long. If that’s the case, you will certainly get a phone call from the editor’s office. It’s not because your English or grammar errors, because they have professional editors to correct those problems, and it is actually their daily job. The reason that your piece didn’t get published, is all because you are not in the system.
You think that I am talking about the big ones like New York Times or The Washington Post. But there are some very localized newspapers show up all by themselves on my driveway every morning. Almost 99% of these papers will end up in trash with wrappers on, while another 1% will probably be opened on a kitchen counter and serve as trash wrappers. Even for these kind of newspapers, if you bother to turn to the Op-Ed section, it is filled with senior research fellows, retired generals and nationally syndicated folks. One thing for sure, you will not find someone that you can run into at the metro stations every morning.
Newspaper business is an established industry which, in business sense, only deals with other established entities. Those entities are the ones such as high level government officials, rich and famous and most importantly, someone whose article can bring more subscribers (more money) to the newspaper. If you are not one of them, then you are not in their system. If your article is rejected by one newspaper, chances are it will be rejected by all newspapers. It seems like different newspapers are competitors for each other, but to you, they are all on the same side. So stop blaming yourself and accept the reality that your Op-Ed pieces will never get published on the newspapers.
(Dong Xue is a freelance writer who lives on free thinking)