I published my first op-ed last month in the Huffington Post, which I’m just now learning is a big deal.
I had to look up why this was so. Don’t tell anyone, but before I started The OpEd Project, I’d never read HuffPo (or really any other internet news for that matter). I learned through my research that HuffPo is the most widely read internet news source, with more web traffic than The New York Times. Although there is some controversy over the accuracy of numbers, HuffPo boasts a readership (35.5 million unique viewers), which is higher than the New York Times (33.59 million unique viewers). I realize that all of these viewers are not reading my post(s), but the potential is for a wider reach than all of my academic publications combined. My academic “stats” include almost 100 publications that in total have been cited over 600 times.
In the past, I had written and published letters to the editor, but I had never written a full fledged op-ed, never pitched one to a media outlet, never worked with an editor so quickly to write and publish a piece.
Since being in the Public Voices Fellowship Program, I feel like I have learned a whole new language and it seems as though a whole new world has opened up to me. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I now know what a “lede” is, how to write and pitch an op-ed piece, how to rapidly update a piece (hourly in some cases) during the “pitch to accept” cycle, and the importance of keeping updated with the rapidly changing news reports that were related to my piece.
I have learned about the fast turnaround time from “pitch to post.” In approximately 24 hours, my first post that was written, and then pitched-rejected, and then pitched-rejected, and “finally” pitched-accepted-posted. This experience was very unlike publishing academic papers that take months or years from “write-to-publish.”
I was beginning to get hooked. I liked the speed of it all, the “high” when I saw my piece “go live.”
Once my piece was published, I learned about the importance of using social media to promote it, something I admittedly had not paid much attention to before. I learned how to share, like, comment, post, and then use the old-fashioned email to send the post to colleagues, professional discussion boards, family and friends. I also joined Twitter and started following and being followed.
Lots of learning happened so fast. I appreciate The OpEd Project, Deborah Siegel and Teresa Puente, The OpEd Project staff, and DePaul University for supporting the program.
My participation in The OpEd Project and my Huffington Post piece has resulted in me getting regular blogger status at HuffPo, which will enable me to post directly to the site.
On to my next op-ed!
Mona Shattell PhD, RN is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project and an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at DePaul University.