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Editorials and Commentary: 

Editorials and Commentary Prof. Lorraine Branham ASNE High School Workshop July 25, 2006


Definition “An editorial is the institutional opinion or viewpoint of a newspaper or other journalistic entity that seeks to effect change, stir the public to action or influence public opinion and/or public policy in a particular direction for the good of the community.”

How is the editorial page different?: 

How is the editorial page different? “The editorial page of the paper should begin where the rest of the paper leaves off.” Vermont C. Royster, Editorial Page Editor

Separation of Church and State: 

Separation of Church and State News stories seek to provide both sides of a story News stories should be devoid of opinion News stories seek to be objective News stories present facts about events that have taken place

Separation of Church and State: 

Separation of Church and State Editorial writing is subjective Editorials seek to present informed opinions Seeks to single out issues for public discussion and examination Seeks to influence public opinion

The Editorial Page: 

The Editorial Page Is the page or section where editorials appear Should be clearly identified May include “Letters to the Editor, Editorial Cartoons, columns and opinion articles. Op-ed page is the page opposite the editorial page and is usually reserve for opinions of those outside of the newspaper.


Editorials Traditionally appear in a wide-spaced column on the left side of the editorial page Represent the opinion of the newspaper Should be labeled as “opinion” or “editorial” or “Our view” Are written by individuals on the editorial board.

Editorial Cartoons: 

Editorial Cartoons

The Editorial Board: 

The Editorial Board A group of people, usually including the publisher and the top editor, who decide on the position that the editorial board will take on a given issue. Tries to reach a consensus based on input from various members of the editorial board

Who writes the editorials?: 

Who writes the editorials? One member of the editorial board is selected to research and write the editorial after a consensus is reached. Editorials are usually unsigned or published without a byline because they represent the newspaper’s opinion – not the writer’s.

Where do ideas come from?: 

Where do ideas come from? News stories Student issues and school problems Actions taken by school officials Student government and other organizations Sports and athletics Also community, state and national issues that affect your students Students

H.L. Mencken: 

H.L. Mencken “No editorial writer should be allowed to stay in the office…I would send him out, if only to cover police court, so that he would come in contact with the human race. I would send him out wherever there was a big story and we had an opinion about it.”

Writing an editorial: 

Writing an editorial Five basic steps 1. Introduce the issue or subject 2. State the paper’s position 3. Discuss opposing points of view 4. Back up your position with supporting facts and details 5. Draw conclusion

Various Types of Editorials: 

Various Types of Editorials Editorials that Explain Editorials that evaluate Editorials that persuade Editorials that call for action Editorials that provoke discussion

Editorials that Explain: 

Editorials that Explain Are like expository essays Attempt to interpret or inform rather than argue a point of view The expression of opinion comes in the interpretation of facts Often used on slow days when there isn’t much to say Most effective when they explain what has taken place and why it is important

Editorial Cartoon: 

Editorial Cartoon

Editorials That Evaluate: 

Editorials That Evaluate Examines the pros and cons or positives and negatives of some issue, action or situation Should indicate to reader that you have researched all sides of the issue before coming to a conclusion Focus on actions or situations that the editorial board see as wrong or in need of improvement – or that are praiseworthy Criticism should be constructive Offer an alternative solution or course of action

Editorials That Persuade: 

Editorials That Persuade Attempt to offer specific solutions to a problem Seeks to get someone to do something Can provide leadership in bringing about changes Offers opportunity to suggest compromise

Editorials that Provoke Discussion: 

Editorials that Provoke Discussion Encourages the community to have a conversation with itself about an issue or problem Should lay out the issue and suggest points for readers to think about Usually doesn’t have an opinion or ask people to do anything other than think May be the first step before writing an editorial that asks people to do something

Editorials That Call for Action: 

Editorials That Call for Action Expect immediate action rather than an understanding of the situation Should tell the reader the reasons they should do – or not do -- something Should explain the impact those actions will have Should tell why you believe this is important

Op-ed Page and Letters: 

Op-ed Page and Letters A newspaper has a responsibility to involve readers in a community conversation Must provide space for dialogue on current topics of concern Readers are given their turn in two was: letters to the editor and op-ed columns

Letters to the Editor: 

Letters to the Editor Decide and then publish policy for printing readers letters Identify letter writer and verify all information Encourage serious discussion but don’t shy away from humor, criticism, and praise Run letters promptly Run as many letters as possible Encourage opposing viewpoints

Op-ed and Commentary: 

Op-ed and Commentary A place for personal columns and articles that resent other views on an issue Should be a “marketplace” of ideas Should seek out opposing viewpoints Strive for knowledgeable writers but be open to fresh views Don’t forget diversity – of all kinds!

High School Editorials : 

High School Editorials Is there a place for editorials in your newspaper? Listen to different segments of your high school community. What bothers them? What do they like? What do they want? Attend school board meetings, PTA meetings and student council Talk to teachers and students

High School Editorial Pages: 

High School Editorial Pages Take strong stands on matters of principal and issues that student readers care about Editorials are a public service – seek to serve the public in all you do Create a forum within the marketplace of ideas to conduct a public dialogue within the school about matters of interest Be a watchdog Write to inform readers and guide them in making change Make people think!

Issues for High Schools: 

Issues for High Schools Principals and other administrators Parents and parent groups Students Coaches and athletes Censorship

Editorial Cartoon: 

Editorial Cartoon

Setting an editorial board agenda: 

Setting an editorial board agenda

Column Writing: 

Column Writing “I know editorials are read by movers and shakers. I try to look at life from the perspective of the moved and shaken. Therefore I tend to think of the editorial page as institutional, while the column can be rebellious. I think of the editorial page as stable, stately and consistent, while the column can be quick, mischievous and unpredictable. The editorial page speaks; the columnist responds. If the editorial page packs a bigger wallop, the columnist has more fun.” Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, syndicated columnist

H.S Column Writing : 

H.S Column Writing Columns easier and more fun for students Allows for more student input and creativity Gets more individual voices and ideas in paper Can be used as an excuse to avoid reporting

Types of Columns: 

Types of Columns Political commentary Local/metro columnist Business/finance/economics Sports Lifestyle/culture Humor/satire International affairs/politics

The Columnist’s Tool Chest: 

The Columnist’s Tool Chest Strong basic reporting skills Intimate knowledge of the subject Knowledgeable and authoritative sources Knows how to advance the story into virgin territory Writing ability

Writing A Successful Column: 

Writing A Successful Column Report for the column – unsupported arguments won’t contribute much to your readers understanding or add much to the quality of the public debate Don’t write beyond your competence. Stick to what you know. Stay timely. Link your commentary to what’s in the news Find the human angle, the human tragedy in a problem of compelling importance. Be fair, but don’t use fairness as an excuse to shun vigor and conviction. Don’t inject yourself into every column. Write and rewrite. Develop your own style

The Censors : 

The Censors -- In a victory for one high school newspaper, a school board voted not to take away the paper’s editorial control after it printed articles on oral sex. -- A gay high school student’s column urging others to come out was censored from his high school newspaper in a Chicago suburb. -- A school board apologized for halting distribution of a high school student newspaper and gave the OK to pass out the paper, which contained an editorial critical of a school board member. --

The Censors: 

The Censors --The principal of one high school, earned herself a muzzle award for recalling copies of the student newspaper because she felt articles discussing tattoos, body piercing and birth control were too mature for high school students. -- Another high school principal pulled copies of the student newspaper and made students reprint the issue without a student-written sex column.

Dealing With Censorship A bit of advice from the Student Press Law center: 

Dealing With Censorship A bit of advice from the Student Press Law center Don’t let fear cause you to censor yourself! Establish a policy calling your publication a student forum for expression. Use public pressure to your advantage. Remember alternative publications. Seek help from professional journalism organizations

Where to get help: 

Where to get help Call the Student Press Law Center if you are censored. The SPLC can help you make a plan of action for fighting censorship in your school and can help explain what your rights are under state law as well as the First Amendment. If your rights have been infringed and you want to go to court to defend then, the SPLC can also help you find an attorney in your area that will be willing to offer you assistance. Visit www.splc.org/legal_request.asp for details.

Opinion in High School Papers: 

Opinion in High School Papers What do you think?

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