NEW YORK: A review of nearly 400 Op-Eds penned by academics in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newark, NJ's Star-Ledger, found that the vast majority of the opinion pieces agreed with the editorial position of the paper in which they appeared.
The study showed, for instance, that 93% of the Op-Eds reviewed in The Times agreed with the paper's editorial stance and 95% of those in The Journal agreed.
Robert Sommer, president of The Observer Media Group, which publishes The New York Observer, and former partner and EVP at MWW, said Op-Eds that agreed with the tone of the target publication were the most likely to be published.
“If you've got an issue on the left, The Times is better than The Journal, and vice versa,” Sommer noted.
Other key attributes were brevity (word count of 800-1,000 words “unless you're Henry Kissinger”), few statistics so as not to overwhelm the reader, timeliness (more than 3/4 were published within two weeks of a relevant news event), and a negative tone that suggests, “We have a problem; the system is broken,” Sommer said.
The study, “Influencing Public Policy: An Analysis of Published Op-Eds by Academics,” will be published in the August 2008 issue of the journal Politics and Policy.
It examined the key characteristics of the 366 editorials successfully published by academics in the three papers during 2006. It was co-authored by Rutgers University graduate student John Maycroft where Sommer is director of the Institute of Planning and Public Policy Communications at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
Although written with academics in mind, Sommer said the results easily translate to PR professionals' work.
“The Op-Ed page is not the most read but it is the most valuable page, other than the front page, because the influencers absolutely read that page” said Sommer who himself has penned several dozen Op-Eds, as well as numerous ones for clients when he worked in PR. “It is the best way to get the president, Senate, or the mayor to pay attention to your position.”
Sommer admitted that today's media landscape includes plenty of opportunities to express opinion, such as the range of political Web sites that have cropped up in recent years, but argued that the opinion page of a major newspaper like The Journal or The Times continues to offer a valuable opportunity to reach the country's influencers en masse.
“There's so much clutter [in the media landscape]... So if you make the cut, it says the editors take your opinion and your piece very seriously and it has a seal of approval in that limited number that are printed in any day,” he said.