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Lessons from a published op ed

by Shari Graydon

Yeah, but I’m not Eddie Greenspan.

That’s what I thought last December when Globe and Mail op ed page editor, Natasha Hassan claimed to a room full of Osgoode Hall profs that her paper’s online commentary hub was an enormously influential platform. Most participants in Informed Opinions workshops, if they submit an op ed to the Globe, are much more interested in seeing their labours published in the actual newspaper, as well.

To make her case, Natasha cited a recent piece by internationally recognized defence lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, which he’d resisted giving her for online use only, sharing my belief that it wouldn’t actually net much of a readership. Instead, she told us, he got a great deal of response, not just from Canadian readers, but American as well.

But — not having represented Conrad Black, Garth Drabinsky or Robert Latimer (let alone hosted my own CBC radio series) — I doubted this as a representative example.

And then on the day of the Alberta election, I was proven wrong. I had submitted a piece to the Globe three weeks earlier, arguing that a neck-and-neck race between two strong female leaders made it more likely that matters typically marginalized as “women’s issues” might merit more attention. I didn’t immediately hear back from Natasha and was too busy to follow up or offer it elsewhere. But a few days before the election, she offered to publish it online. Given its imminent expiry date, I agreed. But I wasn’t optimistic.

To my surprise, however, the piece generated two additional interview opportunities. Sun TV emailed the morning it appeared, and a reporter from the Calgary Herald called later that week, both wanting to hear my views on related matters.  So that was the first lesson: Natasha was right about the profile achieved by online commentary.

The second lesson concerned the Sun TV request. Because I get most of my news from print, radio and online sources, my only exposure to Sun TV had come via Youtube. Like many others, I had cringed through the sorry spectacle of attack dog Krista Erickson treating dance icon Margie Gillis like she was a convicted felon.

My colleague Claire, who fielded the Sun query, confessed to the producer by email that she was reluctant to recommend I make time for the interview, given this infamous episode. He wrote back assuring her that Caryn Lieberman, the anchor who would be speaking to me live from Toronto, was a professional.  And she was.