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Posts tagged ‘Op-Ed’

The Unfinished Business of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 27, 2015

Jeff Weintraub

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Jay Ruderman (photo: Noam Galai)

My client, the Ruderman Family Foundation, is a leader in promoting greater inclusion of people with disabilities into aspects of society — schools, workplaces, religious life and many other public accommodations. So it was appropriate that Jay Ruderman, the president of the Foundation, and Congressman Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a leader in the disability advocacy community, teamed up to publish this piece about the 25th anniversary (on July 26) of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Op-Ed, which I had a hand in crafting, points out that the ADA brought about a revolution for the rights of people with disabilities in this country. In it, Ruderman and Langevin note that the ADA “provided that people with disabilities would no longer have to face discrimination in the workplace and in other accommodations, and it brought about a revolution in the nation’s built environment and telecommunications, providing greater accessibility for all.”

But, it adds, even after 25 years, the U.S. still has a long way to go to achieve full integration of people with disabilities into our schools, our workplaces and our communities.

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Cong. Jim Langevin (photo: http://langevin.house.gov/)

“The misguided belief that people with disabilities are better off living and spending their days primarily with other people with disabilities, for example, is still far too prevalent across the country,” Ruderman and Langevin say, adding later that “people with disabilities – even those with clear and concrete capabilities – continue to face barriers to full and inclusive employment. Those who do have a job are too often segregated from their colleagues, where their contributions remain underestimated and underutilized. And many employers still lack a fundamental understanding of how to provide adequate accommodations – even simple and inexpensive ones – that increase access and enhance productivity in the workplace.”

Amplify: Op-Ed on Value of Girls’ Education

March 6, 2015

Jeff Weintraub

julia-rwandaFormer Australian Prime Minister and Chair of (our client) the Global Partnership for Education just published this piece, which Weintraub Communications helped shape, in the WISE Ed Review. It coincides with the 2015 observance of International Women’s Day on March 8. She wrote:

“Over the last decade, there has been a substantial improvement in getting more children in school, and many nations have achieved or approached gender parity in their primary schools. But 31 million is still a staggering number, and it means that the task of bringing a quality education to girls in every corner of the world is still far from complete.

“…This year, as we refine and inaugurate the Sustainable Development Goals, we have a chance to inject new urgency into the agenda of educating more girls by expanding access to secondary school, improving quality and better responding when education is caught up in a crisis.

“Yes, that is going to take more money, but education is a high-return investment. There’s more than enough evidence to show that educating girls is not only transformational to girls themselves but to everyone around them. With education, a girl will be better positioned over her lifetime to help herself and her family move out of poverty and avoid the threats of disease. That makes for stronger women and more resilient families, communities, nations and the world.” 

Amplify: Op-Ed on Role of U.S. Foreign Aid in Fighting Extremism

March 6, 2015

Jeff Weintraub

Anthony Zinni (fromj "Anthony Zinni" by Unknown - http://www.usmc.mil/genbios2.nsf/working/65AB0DA17487377285256A40007188D3/$FILE/lowres.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Weintraub Communications had a hand in this Op-Ed by General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.) (right) the former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, and Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) (left, below) former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Both are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of (Weintraub Communications client) the US Global Leadership Coalition, a broad-based coalition of more than 400 businesses and NGOs that supports a smart power foreign policy. They wrote:

image_Stavridis_James“The important lessons we learned in our military careers is that countering the threats to our nation require comprehensive responses that utilize all our elements of national power – military and non-military. An indispensable part of the non-military toolkit is foreign aid – one of the least appreciated and yet vital means for advancing America’s interests around the world.

“Today’s battles require melding our military power with civilian efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and support the creation of well-functioning governance systems and civil society, build infrastructure, coalesce diverse nations around common goals, and promote economic development. In short, everything that is necessary to improve the long-term prospects of a nation and keep extremists from exploiting misery and desperation.”

(Zinni photo attribution.)

Amplify: Boko Haram’s Threat to Education in Nigeria

March 6, 2015

Jeff Weintraub

obaji.2Here’s a piece Weintraub Communications helped place in The Hill Newspaper for Philip Obaji, Jr., a youth advocate for (our client) the Global Partnership for Education) and the founder and general coordinator for the 1 GAME Campaign, which promotes basic primary education for vulnerable children in Nigeria. He wrote:

“During four days in late October, I was on a mission to encourage reluctant parents in Maiduguri to send their daughters to safe schools working through traditional leaders, youth leaders and the local media as facilitators. In those four days, I met girls who told me they were scared of returning to school because they fear they could be attacked by anyone, including their male teachers. Because of their ordeal in the hands of militants, some of whom they identified as neighbours, they are unwilling to trust anyone.

”’I don’t know where my next attacker could come from,’ a young girl told me. ‘I just don’t trust anyone, not even my teachers.’

Amplify: NY Times Op-Ed on Impact of Ebola on Education in Sierra Leone

March 6, 2015

Jeff Weintraub

CBahChernor Bah, a former refugee from the civil war in Sierra Leone, is a youth advocate for (our client) the Global Partnership for Education and a co-founder of A World at School, published this piece in The New York Times last fall with help from Weintraub Communications. He wrote:

“It made me realize that what may be in the shortest supply in Sierra Leone is hope for the future. Each day further into the epidemic, it becomes harder to imagine how to recapture time lost — not just in the caring of parents who have died, but in education when schools are closed, in income when people can’t work, in food cultivation and road-building when cash itself has run dry.

“Ebola is not just a health emergency. It is a tragedy that has swept away fragile new roots for a new society, put down after the decade of civil war. While a vast majority of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million people have not been infected, Ebola has loosed many other threats that will linger long after the virus is quelled.”

Amplify: What Makes a Winning Op-Ed?

November 24, 2013

Jeff Weintraub

loudspeakersGETTING AN Op-Ed placed is no cinch anymore – if it ever was – particularly in the highest-profile daily papers and online outlets.

There are fewer such papers than a generation ago and intense competition to get in them. (I’ve heard editors of some of the bigger national papers say they can get 75 to 100 submissions a day for maybe a couple or three slots.) While online publications theoretically have an infinite amount of space to devote to Op-Eds, they can be pretty selective, too.

But someone has to get published, and if yours is the right piece at the right time, it might just be you. Though there are no guarantees with any formula, here are elements that I think will improve your chances and help you try to amplify your message.

Have something to say. This should be self-evident, right? I mean, isn’t that the primary purpose of an Op-Ed? Well, I’ve handled countless Op-Eds that really didn’t seem to offer a coherent idea or perspective so much as a catalogue of disconnected thoughts or personal accomplishments. Very simply: that’s not what works.

Make one good main point – maybe two, at the very most, but even that’s pushing it. The rest of the piece should be made up of proof points (statistics, anecdotes, quotes from other experts, and so on) that support the larger big idea.

Offer Credibility. The more expert and authoritative the writer is about the topic, the more likely she will get published. Op-Ed pages are bulletin boards of the best and most informed thinking, so it’s best you really know what you’re talking about or bring some special authority to the subject.

That doesn’t mean you have to be famous, just credible.  It may appear to the regular Op-Ed reader that most of the pieces are by well-known government leaders, entertainers and other brands; that’s certainly true in places like the Huffington Post, which trades heavily on such names.

But, as David Shipley, the then-editor of the New York Times Op-Ed Page, wrote a number of years ago, “Does it help to be famous? Not really. In fact, the bar of acceptance gets nudged a little higher for people who have the means to get their message out in other ways — elected officials, heads of state, corporate titans.”

As someone who has pitched pieces by top government leaders, major corporate execs, well-known academics, and even a king, I can tell you that, while such names will probably ensure a first read, their celebrity status alone isn’t enough. But if you’re, let’s say, a  small family farmer with on-the-ground knowledge of a particularly topical agriculture issue and you have something compelling to say about it, you just might get published.

Be Compelling. And just what is “compelling?” Well, it’s highly subjective. But, to quote Shipley again, “[S]ay something forthright and unexpected. Op-Ed real estate is too valuable to be taken up with press releases.”

If you look at many of the pieces that appear on the best Op-Ed pages, you’ll notice that, first, they offer a fresh take or a counterpoint on an issue. There was a piece just a few days ago, for example, by Jason Kass called “Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet.

The occasion for the piece was World Toilet Day (more serious an observance than you’re probably thinking). While other organizations and experts probably tried to submit pieces around World Toilet Day that gave rather sober and unsurprising arguments for the need for more and better sanitation systems in the developing world, Kass’s obviously jumped out.

Kass, identified as “an environmental engineer and the founder of the organization Toilets for People,” succeeded by taking a somewhat contrarian view, challenging the conventional wisdom, and, most gutsy, even the most prominent of global development leaders, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With vivid examples (another ingredient of “compelling”) he said that many of the cutting-edge sanitation innovations are too complicated and expensive to solve the widespread challenge. Though it may have ruffled some feathers among the major international development organizations, it proved to be a winner, at least to Op-Ed editors.

Part of being compelling often includes timeliness – talking about something that’s on everyone’s mind today, not last week or even last month. Take part in the conversation while it’s happening.

Answer The Question: Why Should I Care? This is a question every journalist, on behalf of his or her audience, must answer before deciding to cover a story or run an Op-Ed piece. What relevance does this point have for the rest of society? Is it just a promotion of a product or an accomplishment (something I see often in unsuccessful Op-Eds, speeches, interviews, etc.), or is does it have some important bearing on broader trends and concerns?

One Op-Ed  that met this latter criteria over the last year came from none other than Angelina Jolie. That was the one in which she disclosed in the New York Times that she had a double mastectomy to preempt the onset of breast cancer.

If she had only offered a poignant story about how her mother battled (and lost to) breast cancer (speaking of compelling) and the surprising medical intervention she chose, it probably would have been interesting – certainly to the celebrity pages. But what would it matter to the rest of us? Would we care? Would it have been published? I doubt it.

“But,” she added, “I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.”

Why should we care, indeed? And, even more so than most Op-Eds, her message was amplified through the enormous follow-on media coverage.

Follow a Few More Simple Rules.

  • Be brief. 750 to 800 words at the very most. (Unless you’re Henry Kissinger, who seems always to get more space than most anyone I can think of.)
  • Get to your main point right away – only in couple of paragraphs in. You don’t have a lot of space.
  • Fight the big fight. Don’t get bogged down in arcane side debates that only you and three other people care about. (See: “Why Should I Care?”) Win on what’s make-or-break for your side.
  • Avoid repeating opposition views. You’ve only got a little bit of space, so use it to make your argument, not to repeat others’. In other words, play offense not defense.
  • Be civil. “Jane, you ignorant slut!,” (if you’re too young or forgetful to know what I’m referring here, watch this at 1:09) is not a winning line other than on comedy shows. Nor is it effective to impugn your opponent’s motives when you don’t really know what those motives are. Stick to the merits of the debate. (See: “Fight the big fight.”)

You can apply most of the advice here to many other aspects of your communications. But when it comes to Op-Eds, these are the ingredients of a recipe that might just win you the blue ribbon. Good luck.

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