The Major Newspaper That Rewrote Someone Else’s Op-Ed

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 29, 2013 – 6:02 am

I received an email from Australia-based reader Tim Horan about an op-ed piece he submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald, one of his nation’s most-read newspapers.

Tim works for the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, an advocacy group that represents the interests of shooters (the group supports much stricter gun safety laws than the National Rifle Association.)

He writes:

“Obviously every newspaper around the world retains editorial control and can make changes. Usually this is done where something is incorrect, (due to) poor writing skills, or just due to lack of space. Yesterday, the large national organization I work for sent an op-ed to one of Australia’s largest newspapers. They came back to us and said they would only run it if they could make some changes. 182 entirely new words (original article was just over 600)! Entire new paragraphs, new quotes, new statistics … I was stunned! This was, after all, an opinion piece!”

 

Tim says the changes were dramatic:

“These changes included adding entirely new paragraphs of text, making several tired puns (such as ‘shoot from the hip’) and, possibly worse of all, changing the word ‘firearm’ to ‘weapons’.”

 

 

A monthly magazine produced by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia

 
I’ve never experienced anything like that; nor have I heard of such dramatic intervention by a newspaper editorials editor. A more typical experience was one I had years ago with the Los Angeles Times, which had agreed to take an op-ed from the group I worked with at the time. The paper’s editor called me to discuss the piece—they had a few words they wanted to tweak and wanted to clarify a few facts. Our phone call enhanced my view of them—they asked reasonable questions, requested few changes, and wanted to make sure we got it right.

I thought there was a chance that Tim’s editorial was poorly written, necessitating the newspaper to insist upon a major overhaul. But it’s not. It looks like every other op-ed you’d see published in a major, big city newspaper. You can see the unedited op-ed here.

In the end, Tim “made the decision that we couldn’t agree to the changes, so we withdrew the article.” Sounds like a smart decision to me.

I asked the Sydney Morning Herald editor who worked on this piece for comment last Monday. She didn’t respond.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced this type of editorial interference? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below.


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Use This Easy Exercise To Create A Winning Message

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 17, 2011 – 6:26 am

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tim Horan, a media relations professional based in Sydney, Australia. I liked his straightforward approach to message creation, and asked him for permission to share his idea with this blog’s readers.

When I was in primary school, I loved English class. But the one thing I could never understand was the different parts of speech. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, I just didn’t get it.

That was until fifth grade, when my teacher said: “Verbs are doing words, adjectives are describing words.” That was great advice, and I used that lesson throughout the rest of primary and high school.

I’m going to take that advice and use it to help you create a message for your organization. What is your business doing? How is it doing it? That is your message. It’s your chance to start a conversation with an audience about what you have to offer.

Grab a pen and some paper and write your business name at the top. Now write two or three verbs and two or three adjectives that describe your business and tell people what it is doing.

I’ve created an example below to show how easy it is:

Business Name: New Life Gym
Verbs: Encourage, Promote, Help
Adjectives: Healthy, Active, Positive

 

Now that you have these down on paper, all you have to do is work them into one or two sentences, maybe something like:

New Life Gym promotes a healthy, active lifestyle for members. Our fully trained staff will provide you with the help and encouragement you need to make the positive changes you desire.

 

That message is short and to the point. It touches on the key aims and strengths of your organization, what you do and how you do it. Keep it simple, and don’t add three words where one is enough.

Getting your message right is key. Whether you are writing a media release, giving an interview or taking out advertising, your message needs to be at the forefront of your media strategy.

Tim Horan is a media relations professional based in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at www.FreeMediaTraining.Net and Tweets at @OzMediaTraining.

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