Democracy in a Sentence

Democracy in a Sentence

For true prestige on campus, nothing beats landing an op-ed piece in a major paper.

Read Time:
1m 11sec

The source:“Rejected by The New York Times? Why Academics Struggle to Get Published in National Newspapers” by Douglas A. Borer, in International Studies Perspectives, Aug. 2006.

Nothing is quite as gratifying to the Ph.D.-animated ego as hearing the phrase, “I loved your op-ed in the paper.” Two impulses spur academics to submit opinion pieces to the brutal cursor of newspaper editors. One is disgust with published pundits, and the second is celebrity, according to Douglas A. Borer, associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, ­California. The chances of making it into one of the big ­four—­The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Wall Street ­Journal—­are only somewhat better than the odds of winning the Powerball lottery. Even so, some intrepid scholar breaks the barrier every ­week.

Academics must speed up, tighten up, and keep trying, Borer writes. Get an idea and deliver a finished product in 24 to 36 hours. Keep even the most profound topics to 700 ­words—­newspapers have to cede much of their space to advertisements that pay the bills. Avoid long definitions. “We know that use of that ­ever-­loaded term ‘democracy’ in a journal article entails a commitment of four or more pages of literature review in order to dodge the finely honed machetes of peer reviewers,” Borer writes. “In an ­op-­ed you can explain democracy in a sentence.”

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