Opinion

Don’t pass up this season’s hottest deal — writing for the Kansas Reflector opinion section!

December 16, 2021 3:33 am

It doesn’t matter if you write your commentary on a typewriter or computer keyboard, as long as you’re able to email the results to Kansas Reflector’s opinion editor, Clay Wirestone. (Getty Images)

Do I have an incredible deal for you!

If you would like to share your opinions, your takes, your perspectives with the Kansas Reflector’s audience, consider this your invitation to submit a commentary column.

Why this message, and why now? I’ve been prompted by a couple of recent events. First, we’ve run some op-eds that prompted a louder-than-usual response on social media. I don’t mind a vigorous debate, of course, but everyone should know that Facebook comments and reply tweets aren’t the only way to contribute.

We want to hear from you directly.

We note the following at the beginning of submitted commentary: “The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state.”

That means our opinion section encompasses a dizzying array of voices, beliefs and policy prescriptions. No, we don’t include the Koch brothers, racists or anti-vaccine extremists among our ranks, but we probably include you.

Do you care about voting rights?

Do you care about health care?

Do you care about organized labor and a living wage?

Do you care about public education, the environment and LGBTQ folks?

Do you care about communities of color — Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, to mention a few — throughout our state?

That list only scratches the surface of potential subjects, but I’m certain there are plenty of passionate Kansans ready to share their experiences and beliefs with others.

So shoot me an email. Let me know about your idea. Or if you have to write the piece first, go ahead. Either way, I enjoy working with writers to polish their pieces for public consumption.

But that’s not all!

I want to tell you about an exchange I had recently with a public relations firm. They occasionally contact me with ideas for columns, sometimes with sample text in hand.

This firm told me they had just the thing for our opinion section. A piece attributable to a local professional that touched on current issues. It was pitched to the generally progressive audience of the Kansas Reflector’s opinion section. A slam dunk, right?

Wrong. As I read the column, something about its smooth wording, perfect syntax and relentless optimism rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve edited columns by professionals in other fields, and they usually require a bit more work. That’s to be expected; they don’t spend most of their time writing commentary pieces.

So I asked the firm if this column was unique to Kansas Reflector. Surely they weren’t sending it around to other outlets, were they? We pride ourselves on content exclusive to our site. If we run a piece from elsewhere, as happens from time to time, we give appropriate credit.

The PR folks sent back a curiously worded response, so I decided to investigate further.

I searched the first paragraph of the column on Google. Sure enough, much the same column popped up on another website from another state, with another professional’s name attached. A few paragraphs were different, a handful of words changed, but the content was unmistakable.

If any of you are in PR, please don’t do this. Ever. If Kansas Reflector had run that column, it would have damaged our credibility, that of the professional who added their name and that of the firm making the pitch in the first place. In a world where nearly everything can be searched for online, why would you attempt this strategy? (Politicians should take note, too: Don’t share prewritten letters to the editor for your supporters. We’ll figure it out.)

I tell this story not to embarrass anyone or discourage PR firms from contacting us if their clients have good stories to tell. But I tell it to underscore how crucial it is that we run the stories of real Kansans, in their own words.

No one knows your story the way you do. No one has better words to describe your opinions than you do. No one can step up and change minds in Kansas on the issues that matter to you the way that you can.

I truly believe that, and it’s one of the reasons I’m proud to serve as Kansas Reflector’s opinion editor.

The usual disclaimers apply, of course. I can’t promise to run every contribution, and the columns we accept will be edited. I promise to look at everything, though. Email me at [email protected] to make your pitch today.

How can you pass up a deal like that?

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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