stephanie jones

Why I love writing op-eds

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2011 at 3:48 am

Sometimes I work for years on an article or book chapter.

Literally – years.

I’m revising an article right now that has been written, re-written, revised, thrown away, crumbled up, lost, re-theorized, re-analyzed, and finally submitted once I had some idea of what in the world the data had to say that was worthwhile to anyone other than me.

It took six years.

And while I would argue it’s one of the most important pieces of scholarship I’ve produced (I’ll put the link on the blog when it’s published), I imagine a mere few dozen or so people will read it in the research journal where it will land.

And out of that small group of people, I imagine a few of them will find it useful and cite it in their own research.

And out of that even smaller group of people, I imagine I’ll be lucky to receive one or two personal email messages that say, “Hey, thanks – that was good.”

The academic world just doesn’t work that way.

But op-eds do.

My last one took about a week to write: five days of thinking and talking and false starts, one-half day to muster up the courage and decide to actually write it, and one-half day actually hunched over the computer. (okay, fine, i have been reading, living, and preparing for writing on this topic for many years – but i’m not counting that here)

And the feedback is immediate, albeit not all positive (I’ll post about that another time – I’m stickin’ to the positives here).

Though I don’t usually put myself through reading the online comments – they are an immediate stream of opinions about my writing and me. And, surprisingly, the ones I quickly browsed this time were overwhelmingly positive.

But the personal emails and telephone calls are really amazing (only a few people are angry enough to look me up and contact me personally…most of the personal communication I receive is supportive and inspiring).

I get a range of messages of parents, grandparents, students, teachers, administrators, and professors:

Thank you; This is so important; Write more; Send this to every politician and magazine; You hit the nail on the head; Thank you for speaking out because we don’t feel like we can; What can I do to help change this?

The messages are amazing – so thank you for taking the time to find me.

And that’s one reason I love writing op-eds – they actually make me feel like my words can matter.

  1. I can really relate to this article as one who has published about 90 articles in the last three years–mostly citizen journalism but some education. Article popularity can vary from two digits to four digits. I read the op-ed guidelines from the NY Times author actually in two different places: the obvious location and a Developmental Ed journal.
    Now my perennial textbook project has entered the illustration through flickr photo-sharing phase. So that leads to a new form of expression–hopefully not too different for my own good. Showing that my often “too regional” model essay choice could be considered part of the NCTE sustainability movement has been my biggest op-ed achievement to date, and that article is at

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