Updated: Mar 1
Angles help editors and readers know your particular take on a piece. Consider any news story–it’s rarely just a recitation of the facts (some are); instead, the best pieces use someone’s perspective to tell a story. Imagine a bank robbery, a newspaper may report on the perspective of the police officers, the teller, and any witnesses inside.
Your op-ed should do something similar where you are telling your opinion from your viewpoint. This is your angle. This section will review the brainstorming exercise from the first section and then it will look at the headlines of published op-eds to show examples of successful angles. Model your viewpoint and pitch off the angles found in the op-eds for maximum publishing success.
Objective 3: Refine your idea by creating an angle that will make your opinion piece news-worthy and timely:
Deciding your topic and angle:
The very first question any editor is going to ask is “Is your issue timely?”
Most opinion pieces that rise to the top tie into a timely news issue. They connect the author’s experience or argument into an issue of concern for that publication.
Ask yourself, “Would my topic be likely printed tomorrow if I submitted it today?” Look for the stories that the publication is currently covering and ask yourself how your view ties in with them.
Timeliness includes any connection to the following:
A current issue in the news
A holiday, a commemorative anniversary, the birth or passing of a notable figure, an industry day/month (e.g. National Solar Power month)
An event getting attention — e.g. a presidential debate, the release of a controversial movie, a sports championship, a conflict breaking out
An offensive remark made by someone notable
Another note on timeliness:
Take note of important dates in the calendar such as when budgets are passed, key votes are taken, upcoming elections, product announcements, important events. You may be able to prepare a draft of your piece way in advance and fill in the relevant details as the event draws near. You might not know the exact date something will happen (like a product announcement) but you can do the majority of the work and then add in the details once it happens.
Sometimes you may not know the outcome of an event but you want to be ready to submit your piece to a publication for immediate publication such as in the case of an election. Write a piece for each outcome and tweak as necessary if new details emerge.
One method to decide what to write about is to answer the following questions (Go ahead and answer them in your open doc):
Why this topic?
What can you add?
A second method is called the Headline or Title Method. Look at other op-eds and follow their angle as a model.
The publication may end up choosing the title for your piece but you can give it a title ahead of time as a way to help figure out what angle you want to take on your given topic.
Examples are easier. The following is a list of op-eds and the type of angle that their author took on the topic.
As you read through each title and its angle, brainstorm possible titles for the angle you want to take for your piece. These are not hard and fast rules but it seems as though these angles appear in pieces across multiple publications.
Angle 1: I participated in a significant event and here’s what I learned about this key issue.
Angle 2: As part of a profession, I witness the following in my job and it tells us about a key issue by…
Angle 3: I am a part of <insert group of people> and I believe differently than the majority or stereotyped picture painted by the media.
Angle 4: How I changed my mind about…
Angle 5: I discovered something interesting and here’s what it means for this key issue
Angle 6: Celebrating this holiday means for me or a cause/group I represent…
Angle 7: I am a (local example) of a (national/international issue)
Angle 8: This event happening right now is a model for…
Angle 9: This new technology/new law/new idea will have serious repercussions for this key issue
Angle 10: If this course of action is taken, it will positively/negatively affect…
Angle 11: A current law or practice isn’t working or is flat out wrong:
Angle 12: Condemning or praising a person/group/organization in the spotlight
Angle 13: What you think about this current issue isn’t true (or worse than you thought)
Angle 14: This person’s life can teach us about…this key issue
Angle 15: This part of history can help us understand this key issue in the present
Angle 16: Something happened, why is it being ignored?
Angle 17: Here’s what your offensive statement means…
Angle 18: Rehabilitating your reputation
Angle 19: Advocating for change or a particular course of action
Angle 20: This holiday means…
Angle 21: I can no longer support this person, group, or company, because…
There are many more ways to phrase ways to give your opinion but in the examples above, you can see a few patterns forming:
The author is offering a lived perspective on a key issue
The author is warning of the dangers of new technology, law, course of action, or current view.
The author is pushing back against the common view of an issue or how they themselves are viewed by the media
The author is using their voice to raise awareness for a person, group, problem, or perspective, overlooked in the current conversation
Do Now: Use one of the angles above or one from an op-ed that you want to model and give your op-ed a title as a way to brainstorm your topic and angle. Try different angles to see if they also spark ways in which you can write your piece.
A few more brainstorming ideas if you’re having trouble coming up with an idea or angle:
Take a recent speech, social media post, newsletter, or any other piece you’ve created, and repurpose it as an op-ed.
Talk it out with someone or alone with a recording app on your phone — just start coming up with various ideas and see where your voice leads you.