Opinion editor offers advice on how best to present your article

Thursday February 22 2018

Daily Nation

Matatu operators in Nyeri Town on August 14, 2017 read a copy of the Daily Nation. One does not have to be a journalist or an expert in any field to write for a newspaper. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Last Friday, Daily Nation Opinion Editor Mwiti Marete brought out into the open what happens in the opinion pages.

In particular, he spelt out the criteria used to select what to publish, the reasons for rejecting some and the rules of submitting articles. He continues the demystification of the op-eds.

How many articles do you receive per week and what percentage is published?

On average, 50 opinion articles and numerous letters to the editor and items for The Cutting Edge column.

There are only four opinion slots per day — including at least one contracted columnist — for around 10 articles received.

Then there is the main letter, the second lead letter, nine ‘briefs’ and, on average, 10 responses to the day’s debate question. The Watchman only picks six items for publication.

Do you acknowledge receipt of articles and, if not, why?

All emails to the official opinion, letters and Cutting Edge addresses — [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] — are automatically acknowledged.

In addition, the editor sometimes gets back to the writer for clarification or to confirm that, indeed, the article will be published on a specific date — especially if it is time-bound (for example, a piece based on a commemorative event, such as to mark the Day of the African Child).

The editor however is not under obligation to give reasons for rejecting an article.

What kinds of complaints do you receive from contributors?

The most common is that their article did not run.

Others, though rare, include an error having slipped through the editor’s fingers in the heat of the moment, and an article being allocated “too little space” (especially letters).

Any other information or advice to readers?
Contributors should not submit articles through the personal emails of NMG staff members.

That is usually seen as canvassing and can make the editor have doubts on the veracity or quality of the piece, or even arouse fears of mischief, set-up or hatchet jobs targeting certain individuals or organisations.

That can ruin the chances of being published.

Articles based on a subject that is trending or touches on the most people, especially among the newspaper’s readership, stand a better chance of being published than those targeting a few people or are on a little-known or unpopular subject.

Submitting an article more than once does not increase the chances of getting published.

If anything, it may end up irritating the editor! Again, it is discourteous to submit an article or letter to different media houses.

Importantly, to avoid falling prey to criminals, do not divulge personal particulars — such as ID or bank account numbers — in your email.

Finally, one does not have to be a journalist or an expert in any field to write for a newspaper.

An observation and suggested solution to a problem affecting a significant portion of the society can earn one space.

Public Editor’s note: I’m grateful Mr Marete has taken the trouble to spell out to readers what happens in putting together the opinion pages. The clarification was long overdue.

I’m confident I shall now have fewer queries from readers regarding how they can submit opinion articles for publication.

I’m also confident that readers now appreciate the selection and editing of opinions.  

Let me also add my advice to would-be writers of opinion articles.

Clearly, Mr Marete is a friendly and accommodating editor. But he is busy.

Do not call him in the middle of the night, or every other day, to find out whether he is going to use your article.

Give him space and time to do the right thing as a professional editor.

A good article, I can assure you, sells itself. It needs no pushing. Calling the editor unnecessarily can only be irritating.

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly or unprofessionally, you can always send your complaint to me and I will be your advocate.

Send your complaints to [email protected] Text or call 0721 989 264.