From Protest to Op-Ed, Public Voices Fellow, Laura Beth Nielsen, Discusses Publishing

My favorite part aboImageut writing my first Op-Ed was also the scariest part. The Op-Ed Project’s Northwestern Public Voices Fellowship two-day seminar ended just prior to the election.  Before I could put the finishing touches on the Op-Ed I wrote during the training, the election was held.  We all know Barack Obama won, but for days, Florida remained undetermined.  Most of the news stations seemed unconcerned with Florida’s lack of results, but my scholarship about ordinary people and political processes led me to worry about the perception of democracy in the face of this delay.  Instead of complaining to my friends on Facebook, I did something I never would have considered before the workshop:  I wrote an Op-Ed about it. 


It was intimidating because I don’t think of myself as an expert in electoral politics, but I kept reminding myself what we learned in the workshop.  I graduated from law school, I have a PhD in sociology, and I have been studying law and society for twenty years.  I did not need to know the details of every Voting Rights Act case for the last forty years to know that Florida’s failure to count their votes would have been disastrous if the electoral college had come out differently.  And I do know what erodes ordinary people’s confidence in democratic processes. 


As the counting in Florida dragged on and on, I used the techniques I learned to put my argument together: a hook, the rule of three, a thesis, and some policy recommendations.  I wrote quickly, thought some more, made some revisions, and sent it off.  Even though it was scary to contemplate putting my opinion out there, it was exhilarating to have an option other than protest aimlessly. 


I was surprised that my mentor Michele sent it off with very few edits.  She thought it was good enough and that gave me confidence too.  Over the next couple of days, I alternated between compulsively checking to see if any news agency was going to call Florida (which I thought would make my Op-Ed useless), and checking my email to see if the first outlet would publish it.  The news outlets called Florida, and shortly thereafter, I got the three word email, “Thanks.  We’ll pass.”


So I had a rejection and an op-ed that was no longer timely.  Great.  Luckily, Michele Weldon convinced me to have another go at it.  The revisions were pretty simple and she pitched it again.  I settled in for a long wait and another rejection, but the second time was a charm. PBS came through with a quick acceptance.  Somehow I imagined there would be another round of editing or a lengthy “revise and resubmit” phase like we are all used to in academic publishing. Instead, the article was published in just a few hours. 


I learned how great it feels not to be yelling at the tv, but to be part of the public conversation about an important issue.  I learned to trust my instincts (and my mentor!) and to try again when they say no.  I learned to be willing to go outside my academic areas of expertise.  And guess what?  No one asked me about the last forty years of Voting Rights Act cases. 


Read Laura Beth Nielsen’s second write-up “The Price of a Civilized Society for Workers” published in The Huffington Post here.


Dr. Nielsen is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Legal Studies at Northwestern University. This is an OpEd Project Public Voices Fellow scholars at Northwestern University.



  1. When it comes to web communities, this color is
    peculiarly used to stress or reinforce the whole
    idea to the viewers. You can opt for social media optimization services to boost your business.
    Therefore, a large number of i – Phone users want social
    networking apps for socializing. Then, after some initial startup testing to make sure the user’s camera and microphone are working properly (as is also done with Skype), the user can then proceed to make a live broadcast. The younger generation today is obsessed with networking is on a constant look out, so that they are not missing any of it. You can rotate or flip the sides of i – Pad from landscape to portrait or vice verse while you are playing games or reading an e-book.

  2. So, the answer would be; although, it is not necessary
    to avail their services, likelihood of winning the race would increase if their services are availed.
    Try and hold the events in late April or early May to save on green fees.
    As of this report, there was one scratch with Flashy Gray
    having to withdraw from the running. His website, Sure2Profit, provides
    a wealth of informative resources and free horse racing tips.
    There are however, some tried and true handicapping angles that
    can put a lot of money in your pocket when you catch them.
    Along with his acquaintances, they proposed to
    race only among themselves over 1 miles and half a furlong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s