Almost every year, students in an international-relations class at Duke Universitys summer program for gifted students are given an assignment by their instructor, Mark Duckenfield: writing letters to the editor of the New York Times. These students had no success, until this year. 29 students in the 2004 summer program succeeded in placing 17 letters in the esteemed paper in one month.
As the students themselves told the New Yorker, the secret is in your written voice:
Katie, a sixteen-year-old from Lexington, Kentucky, has advice for anyone hoping to get a letter published in the Times:In such a small space, your letter has to convey a lot of passion. You really have to care about what youre saying. They get a lot of letters that are really formal, Riaz, sixteen, of Alpharetta, Georgia, says. When they hear letters that are frank and in a common voice, they like that.
But you have to sound intelligent, Chris, sixteen, from Lansing, Kansas, notes. You cant write it on a third-grade level, because the New York Times isnt a third-grade-level paper. Its for a more sophisticated kind of personat least, thats what I believe.
Also mentioned in Romenesko.