Like reviews, editorials reflect opinion. But there’s a major distinction: The editorial is usually a reflection of management’s attitude rather than the reporter’s or the editor’s personal view. Most editorials, unlike reviews, are unsigned. Framing an opinion The editorial page is management’s soapbox.
Even chain owned newspapers generally have local autonomy, so that the opinions expressed on the editorial page are those of the publisher-in-residence. They’re articulated by an editorial-page editor, and often an editorial board.
At broadcast stations, the station manager often oversees editorials. Writers of editorials and broadcast commentaries do a great deal of fact-finding-checking to see what their own medium and others have said, conducting symposium interviews of people .~in the news, such as government officials and political candidates. As Curtis D. MacDonald, professor Emeritus of journalism at Northwestern University, observed: “Know what you’re talking about or keep still.
After the fact-finding, a decision has to be made about what to say, what position to take. Decision-making systems vary. Sometimes an editorial board hears all sides of a controversial issue and then votes. Of course, only one member of the board writes the piece.
A writer usually isn’t asked to write an editorial that takes. a position different from his or her own beliefs.
(There’s a good reason: the piece is not as persuasive.) When an editorial board takes a position that is likely to cause problems in the publisher’s office, the publisher is generally advised. Few publishers today make much effort to “control” the editorial page. They have too many other things to do person responsible.
Editorials either comment on a current issue or on something that is important but not timely. An editorial’s purpose places it in one of three categories.
1. Commending or condemning. Praising the school board, the fire department, the zoo is a way for the newspaper or broadcast station to act as the public’s voice. However, if someone’s hand needs slapping, the editorial page can act for the community at large.
2. Persuasion. Editorials that condemn or complain are also intended to arouse public indignation and are close, therefore, to the persuasive category. Editorials that persuade try to get people to think or do something specific.
They often pose problems and offer solutions. Persuasive editorials are written to support political candidates, with the obvious intent of getting readers to vote for them. Sometimes the persuasive editorial is one that judges the morality of some event, action or issue.
You should keep in mind that a single editorial will not likely result in immediate attitude shifts or action. Current research about editorial impact indicates that editorials over time about a subject of significance have long-range effect; the one-shot edit.orial does not.
3. Entertainment. Some subject can inspire an editorial
that is just meant to entertain.
Ideas can emanate from anywhere Local, regional, state national and international events, and the occasional offbeat occurrence. The place to look for ideas is the news pages. Most editorial writers read five or more newspapers a day, most of the AP and UPI wire copy sent each day and all the national news magazines. Meetings and speeches, sometimes not even covered by reporters, can spark an editorial idea.
An editorial writer attending a civic luncheon as a guest saw a presentation on domestic violence and asked the speaker and the social agency for help in doing research to write an editorial on the impact of domestic violence on the community and what needed to be done. Personal conversations and experiences are sources fo editorial ideas.
A writer who had his car insurance rate increased because of an accident in which he was an innocent party wrote an editorial stating that this makes the victims of accidents reluctant to me accident reports.
Writing the editorial
Because an editorial presumably reflects the policy of management, the editorial we is used. The assumption is that the audience recognizes the anonymous first-person plural as representing the medium, not the individual who wrote the copy.
A. Form. Editorial organization is different from that of the straight news story. Because an editorial takes a point of view, it cannot be edited and trimmed in the same manner as news. The editorial has essential units: the lead, the body and the clincher. B. Lend. The first sentence or two should be explicit.
You need to state specifically what the topic is and why it’s important to the audience. The lead should be short, crisp and to the point. C. Body. Here you present all your pertinent facts, persuasive language and logical arguments.
One way you can develop the body is to point out alternatives, options or solutions, particularly if you intend to call for action or for a shift in attitudes. Above all, use hard facts to support your ideas. Use examples and illustrations, comparisons, citation of authority.
Avoid glittering generalities and cliches. Be specific, concrete. A popular technique is to start with the least desirable of options or alternatives and end with the one you believe is most acceptable and reasonable. D. Clincher.
The clincher is where you provide what you believe is an inevitable conclusion. The clincher should be carefully composed, but it cannot be totally didactic.
If you’ve done a good job of presenting the facts and of building an argument, the conclusion can be one logically drawn by the audience.
All you have done in the clincher, in fact, is to put into a coherent sentence what you hope the audience has already deduced. Style. After you have written the editorial you need to review it for logic, consistency of thought and style. Be certain there are no ambiguities, no possibility for misinterpretation.
Check sentence and paragraph length carefully. Apply a readability index if necessary. A basic tenet in persuasive writing is the more complex the subject, the simpler the sentences should be. Newspaper editorials. Even more important than sentence and paragraph length is the total length of the editorial. Readership studies of newspapers indicate that the average reader just skims the editorial page unless a topic is compelling.
The wise editorial writer knows that a long, gray column of copy will turn the reader off. Short, tight editorials are the best. Broadcast editorials. Almost every newspaper carries editorials, whereas only about one in ten broadcast stations does. Part of the reason for this low percentage is regulation. However, hundreds of stations, both radio and TV, do carry editorials, though they aren’t always of the hard-hitting variety.
A former, and outspoken, chairman of the FCC, Newton Minow, once said that practically the only things broadcasters editorialize about are “canoe safety and milk for children. Editorials are the responsibility of station management, in most cases. Station managers often form editorial committees to advise on topics and content; the news director and other news staff usually serve on these committees, and assist in the research and do any reporting that needs to be done. Unlike features or commentaries, though, in the end editorials are the product of station management; station managers usually read them on the air themselves.
However, today’s broadcast editorials are often much more than a general manager sitting in front of a camera reading copy. That general manager may still appear, but often only to introduce the editorial reporter and/or tape from the scene. The broadcast editorial may include interviews with people on the street, scenes from the place discussed in the editorials, or even total packages with reporters on the scene. There is a formula of sorts for a good broadcast editorial:
1. Define the issue to be addressed.
2. Provide some background information on the issue.
3. Call for some action on the issue, or provide a recommendation.
4. Expand on Step 3 by stating why your recommendation should be followed, who must do it, when and where it should, begin, and how the action called for can be accomplished