Newspapers for a long time have made a mistake.
We spend all day digging through complicated stories in an effort to better understand situations so that we can pass along a clear and concise news article to you, our readers. We do our best to eliminate or define professional jargon, and we work hard to ensure our analysis is accessible to all.
But for some reason, when it comes to journalistic terms, we assume you know what we’re talking about.
We assume everyone knows the difference between an editorial board and an editorial department. We assume everyone knows that an op-ed is different than an editorial. And we assume that the separation between news, advertising and opinion is easy to see — when it clearly isn’t.
So in an effort to buck that trend, I wanted to explain some of the things we do at The News-Review. Not simply to give you a better understanding of what we do at 345 NE Winchester, but also to start a conversation with you about how we can be better.
So let’s start with the Opinion page, the most controversial of our pages and the one that’s most commonly misunderstood. Within that section — which publishes online as well as in our newspaper — there are a number of different items we frequently publish.
Letters to the Editor
Letters come unsolicited from readers like you. They are mailed, emailed or dropped off at our office.
We don’t pick the topics, we don’t ask anyone in particular to write them, and we do our best to publish every letter we receive.
Writers are held to a word count, are often required to send us sources for claims we cannot easily substantiate, and understand that offensive or libelous commentary will not be published.
In recent months, we have received far more letters that are progressive or left-leaning, which gives readers the impression that we are biased. But like I said, we publish nearly every letter we receive, so if there’s a viewpoint you think is being missed, send us a letter.
We publish local columns and columns from national outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
We require local columnists to have particular expertise or knowledge on the topic they wish to write about. Many of the local columns we publish, like letters, are sent to us unsolicited. But we do from time-to-time reach out to local leaders and ask them to write about a particular topic.
National columnists, like Marc Thiessen, Kathleen Parker, George Will, Michael Gerson, Catherine Rampell and Ross Douthat, come to us from national publications and have varying backgrounds. Some lean left, some lean right, but we do our best to keep the page as balanced as we can. If E.J. Dionne, a left-wing columnist, writes about a certain topic on Tuesday, we’ll look for a column from Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, to publish on the following day.
Sometimes these are called op-eds because historically, guest columns ran “opposite the editorial page.” Not opposite in viewpoint necessarily, but literally. The name comes from the fact that op-eds were located across from — or opposite — the page that contained the newspaper’s editorials.
Editorials are where things tend to get a little sticky. They are, simply put, the opinion of the newspaper.
Every newspaper handles things a little differently, but generally, editorials are created by an editorial board. These boards are filled with editors, managers, publishers and owners. The topics that are covered and the opinions that are formed are generally voted upon or reached by consensus.
Reporters, who are part of the “editorial department,” are not involved in writing “editorials.” They are not bound by the newspaper’s opinion and are not directed to cover certain topics — or not cover them — because of the editorial board’s conclusion. Like you, they learn about the paper’s opinion when it’s published and not a moment before.
We publish two kinds of editorials in our newspaper. The ones we produce are accompanied by a “The News-Review Editorial Board” byline and are labeled “As We See It.” The editorials we publish from other newspapers around the region — The Mail Tribune, The Grants Pass Courier, The Register-Guard and The Bend Bulletin — are labeled “As Others See It.”
An Opinion’s Purpose
The Opinion page provides a valuable space for readers to respond to one another’s views and to critique The News-Review’s content if they don’t like something that’s been published — either our editorials or our news coverage. Perhaps more importantly, the Opinion page provides a platform for community dialogue. One free of online trolls and senseless insults.
You likely won’t agree with everything we print, but in a world where polarization and partisanship seem to be at an all-time high, we need to fill our communities with less hatred and favor respectful conversation instead.