Editorials by MikeJenny


Learning Objectives
   Explain the importance of editorials in
    contributing to community conversation
   Write editorials that explain, evaluate or
   Understand the role of editorial cartoons
   Editorial topics like cafeteria food and school
    spirit seldom raise an eyebrow, let alone a
    voice. But you can make a difference by
    discussing important issues.
   You will learn how editorials can play a vital
    role in your school community.
Weighing Opinions
   An editorial is an article that states the newspaper‟s
    ideas on an issue. These ideas are presented as
   You probably haven‟t given much thought to who
    writes the anonymous opinions in your local paper.
    Some are described as opinion leaders, and others
    are accurately called “publisher‟s mouthpieces.”
    Today, however, most editorial writers are hired not
    for their willingness to parrot the view‟s of the
    paper‟s owner but for their education and
    experience. These writers try to make sense out of
    complex, and sometimes controversial, issues.
Weighing Opinions cont.
   The editorial page—typically, the second
    page of a four-page high school newspaper—
    includes editorials, columns, opinion articles,
    reviews and cartoons. The newspaper‟s
    masthead—a statement providing the details
    of publication—appears on this page as well.
   Newspapers of six or eight pages often offer
    what is known as an op-ed page—literally,
    the page opposite the editorial page. The op-
    ed page contains more of the same features
    you will find on the editorial page.
Weighing Opinions cont.
   High school newspaper editorials today offer
    opinions on a broad range of issues. Student editors
    weigh opinions on topics that were once rarely
    discussed, from school tardiness to sexually
    transmitted diseases.
   Because editorials state the newspaper‟s position
    on controversial issues, many high school
    newspapers have an editorial board. The editorial
    board, which usually consists of top editors, decides
    on a plan for each editorial. One student is then
    selected to research and write the actual article.
    Editorials are usually unsigned, because they
    represent the newspaper‟s opinion, not the writer‟s.
Weighing Opinions cont.
   Of course, the process of deciding the
    newspaper‟s positions on controversial
    matters can include long and heated debates.
    Staffs can schedule conferences during
    which the staff members discuss what is to
    be written about, decide the newspaper‟s
    position on various topics, and make
    assignments. One useful strategy in the
    conferences is brainstorming, a technique in
    which participants suspend critical judgment
    as they generate as many ideas as possible.
Weighing Opinions cont.
   Brainstorming, or free association, often helps
    individuals engaged in group participation to be
    more creative than they would be as individuals. The
    process is thus useful in helping people generate
    ideas for editorials and in suggesting approaches to
    specific topics.
   The primary source of materials for editorials,
    though, is the daily lives of students in your school.
    Students interact with the faculty, the administration
    and one another in many ways. That interaction
    affects academic pursuits, extracurricular activities,
    vocational training and lives of the students outside
    school. Furthermore, national and international
    issues are of concern to the well-informed student.
Weighing Opinions cont.
   Remember, the newspaper is the voice of the
    community, and the editorials are the voice of
    the newspaper. This voice can inform
    readers, stimulate thinking, mold opinion and
    occasionally move people to action.
   Ask yourself, Would I write an editorial if it
    were only read and believed by one person?
    What if that one person were the principal of
    the school?
Writing Editorials
   To be worthy of print space or broadcast
    time, an editorial needs to tell the reader
    something that would not be discussed in a
    straight news story. Like a news story,
    though, an editorial requires careful research.
    The newspaper or broadcast station‟s
    reputation is staked on the accuracy of the
    supporting material in each editorial.
Writing Editorials cont.
        Generally, you should organize an editorial
         in four steps:
    1.    State the subject and your position on the
          subject in the introduction.
    2.    Discuss opposing points of view.
    3.    Prove your position with supporting details.
    4.    Draw a conclusion.
Writing Editorials cont.
   These four parts do not have a set order. The
    editorial, for example, may begin with the
    conclusion. Often the steps are woven
    together. No matter how the steps are taken,
    the key is to make the editorial both logical
    and compelling.
   Editorials can have many purposes—from
    defending actions to praising people to simply
    entertaining readers. Three of the most
    common purposes are explaining, evaluating
    and persuading. Of course, any editorial can
    serve more than one purpose.
Editorials That Explain
   Editorials that explain are somewhat like
    expository essays. They attempt to interpret or
    inform rather than to argue a point of view. The only
    expression of opinion comes in the interpretation of
    the facts. These editorials explain topics such as the
    elimination of an intramural program, a change in
    the grading system or the sudden departure of a
    faculty member.
   Editorials that explain are most effective when they
    describe what has taken place, give a detailed
    explanation of the causes, and highlight the
    importance of the topic.
Editorials That Explain cont.
   The following excerpt, taken from the Scout at Overland High
    School in Aurora, Colorado, is part of a guest editorial written by
    police officer Steve Cox. In this editorial, Cox explains why police
    bust parties:
     Have you ever wondered why the police show up at your party
       and break it up? Have you ever been at a party with alcohol or
       drugs? How about a party where you have 100-200 people
       there? Have you ever had to pay a “door” charge to get into a
         As high school students, most of you can personally relate to
       one of the above questions. Those of you who don‟t have first-
       hand experience probably know someone that has. In fact, some
       of you may have been charged with liquor possession, disorderly
       conduct, trespassing, disturbing the peace or DUI.
         Why do police worry about this? Nine times out of ten, the
       police respond to a party because someone in the neighborhood
       or community has called in a complaint. Very seldom do we just
       drive by and see a party.
Editorials That Evaluate
   Editorials that evaluate focus on actions or
    situations that the editors view as being
    wrong or in need of improvement. The
    criticism in these editorials should always be
    constructive, though. When writing these, be
    sure to emphasize anything positive about
    what you are criticizing, or your readers will
    no longer trust you. Furthermore, you have a
    responsibility to offer alternative solutions or
    courses of action.
Editorials That Evaluate cont.
   The following excerpt, from an editorial in the Crest) the paper at
    Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas). Comments on the
    state of school restrooms:
     It grabs you.
       It permeates your clothes.
       It stinks.
       The problem?
          School restrooms. Stench hangs heavy in the air and seeps
       from cracks and crevices where brown and black slime have a
          Take a close look. Some areas of the floor are constantly wet.
       Slow leaks from the fixtures provide a soggy, sticky film that
       coats the corners and seeps on the floors where the caulking is
          Oh sure, the restrooms are swept daily, their trash emptied.
       This procedure, timed several days within the past month, took
       an average of 2 minutes and four seconds each, start to finish.
       But a quick sweep won‟t cut it; this is a serious job screaming for
       Mr. Clean.
          So wake up and smell the restrooms. (You can‟t miss „em.)
Editorials That Persuade
   Generally, editorials that persuade offer
    specific solutions to a perceived problem.
    Unlike editorials that evaluate, they expect
    immediate action rather than the
    achievement of a general or long-term
    objective. A persuasive editorial can provide
    leadership in bringing about changes in
    school policy or in student behavior.
    Furthermore, when the school community is
    embroiled in controversy, editorials that
    persuade offer the community to suggest
    compromise solutions.
Editorials That Persuade cont.
   This excerpt from an editorial in the Lance, the paper at Westside
    High School in Omaha, Nebraska. The writer argues that the
    school candy store should be reopened:
     If a student is hungry, he will buy food…even from a vending
       machine. This year, students are able to purchase various
       products from the vending machines located in the cafeteria.
       Many people hoped the machines would reduce stress caused
       by clubs using the candy store. However, the Lance believes the
       candy store should be utilized again because too many problems
       are created due to the vending machines and to the questions
       raised by the new distribution system…
         The administration closed the candy store due to congestion
       and uncleanliness….
         This year, numerous cafeteria messes from the vending
       machines have resulted in punishment for the entire school.
       When a select few cause problems, it is unfair to punish
       everyone. No one can buy anything if the machines are turned
       off, and clubs won‟t receive money when the food is not sold.
Editorials That Persuade cont.
       The clubs which used the candy store last year are to be
 given the same monetary amount from the vending machines‟
 proceeds. Profits from the past three years were averaged for
 each organization. This average is the amount to be given to the
 group. Some organizations that didn‟t sell candy last year have
 received money, and as a result reduced the funds which were
 allocated to other clubs…
       The candy store allows students to take responsibility for
 themselves and organizations. Individuals must sacrifice their
 open mods and work for the funds. Students‟ efforts result in
 visible rewards. They can see the money their club is
 accumulating and take an active role in the process…
       Although complications existed when the store was used,
 the Lance believes the candy stores should be reopened. The
 vending machines have not solved any problems; actually they
 have only produced additional negative situations. Uncleanliness
 and punishment have replaced school spirit and club
 cooperation. That‟s definitely not a fair trade.
   Imagine that you have just learned that your school
    is going to require uniforms for all students.
    Consider the following statements. The principal
    explains, “What we want is a learning environment,
    not a fashion show,” The police chief comments,
    “These school uniforms will reduce violence on
    campus.” A parent notes, “The social pressure to
    have designer clothes was too much.” And a student
    says, “I dress to please myself, not to please
   Write a brief, 200-word editorial in which you support
    or criticize the new school policy.
Involving Readers
   As was explained earlier, a newspaper
    editorial staff has the responsibility to create
    community conversation. In order for readers
    to have their turn to speak, newspapers
    provide space for dialogue on current topics
    of concern. Readers are given their voices in
    two ways: in letters to the editor and in
    opinion features.
Letters to the Editor
   Most readers like reading letters to the editor,
    but they must be encouraged to write. If you
    want to strengthen this part of the editorial
    pages, you have to ask readers to respond.
    Furthermore, you must be willing to print
    critical, as well as complimentary, letters.
    Finally, to receive vital, well-written letters,
    you must publish vital, well-written editorials.
Letters to the Editor cont.
   Editors have a tremendous incentive to solicit
    responses for their opinion pages. Carefully
    crafted letters from readers can stimulate
    worthwhile dialogues on important topics.
Letters to the Editor cont.
   Here are seven suggestions for generating
    more letters to the editor:
       1. Set up rules, and follow them.
       2. Focus on school issues.
       3. Identify letter writers.
       4. Encourage serious discussion.
       5. Verify all information.
       6. Run letters promptly.
       7. Run as many letters as possible.
Opinion Features
   In its first editorial in 1982, USA Today wrote
    of its challenge to provide a daily forum for
    the free exchange of opinions. The editorial
    stated: “Our goal: to offer an opinion page
    where people with diverse points of view can
    help establish, amid the chaos of personal
    agendas, a national agenda for America. For
    those who listen only to what they already
    believe speak only to themselves.”
Opinion Features cont.
   In its attempt to reach that goal, USA Today
    includes a “Voices” feature on its opinion
    pages. Many college and high school papers
    have borrowed the idea and typically present
    five responses to a question.
   Many high school newspapers have created
    their own versions of USA Today’s “Voices”
   From the January 27, 2000 issue of The Eagle (Chadron State College, Nebr.).

     Voices: What are your weekly expenses and where
      do you spend most of your money?
         Most students live on a limited budget and don‟t realize
          where their money is going. Organization of your finances
          is the key to a healthy financial future and it begins with
          noticing where the money you spend is going.
Zach Even,         Mary              Heidi Todd,   Jon             Jenifer Reisner,
Sophomore          Tewahade,         Freshman      Schwaderer,     Junior
                   Freshman                        Sophomore
“All I‟ve spent                      “Food, gas                    “ Where I spend
money on lately    “Tuition and      and Wal-      “Gwen, Gwen,    my money is on
is school, my      books are         Mart.”        Gwen!           apartment bills,
deer-damaged       killing me so I                 Enough said.”   but it is well
truck and a        hope I will get                                 worth it.”
fishing license.   a scholarship.
   Create your own “Voices feature. Select
    several of your classmates to interview on a
    question that you believe is important to your
    school community.
Choosing Cartoons
   Cartoons can do more than enrich popular
    culture and make us laugh. Editorial cartoons
    can be a powerful form of expression. They
    can grab the attention of readers in a single
    glance. Unfortunately, however, they are not
    always understood.
   One study reported in Journalism Quarterly
    revealed an overwhelming failure of
    nationally syndicated cartoons to get their
    message across. Most interpretations offered
    by readers were not at all what the cartoonist
Choosing Cartoons cont.
   Your goal in drawing or selecting editorial
    cartoons is to make sure that your readers
    get the intended message. An effective way
    to achieve this goal is to have a cartoon
    reinforce a message that is contained in an
    accompanying editorial.
   In addition to reinforcing editorial messages,
    cartoons should also be well drawn.
   Schaffer, James, Randall McCutcheon and
    Kathryn T. Stofer. Journalism Matters.
    Lincolnwood: Contemporary, 2001.

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