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When a newspaper refuses to editorialize

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by franticscribe, May 5, 2012.

  1. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    North Carolina is in the midst of voting on a sweeping marriage amendment to its state constitution. This is the most divisive and hotly discussed political issue in this state that I can remember in all the years I've lived here. I've been told you have to go back to Jesse Helms' close re-election bids against Harvey Gantt in the 1990s to find as polarizing of an election issue in this state.

    Every major newspaper in the state has taken an editorial position on how the public should vote, save one: the News & Record in Greensboro. Although a shell of its former self, it is still the third largest newspaper in the state. The stated reason for not taking a position is that the editorial board cannot come to consensus on the issue. The editorial board of the paper has dwindled to three people: the publisher, and two editorial department staffers. The two editorial staffers have already written columns stating why they are against the amendment. Leaving one person on the opposite side of the argument -- the publisher. So the paper is taking no position.

    It's raised an interesting debate. What is the role of a newspaper editorial if a newspaper is going to sit out the most important debate of its day? If a newspaper is going to editorialize on the day-to-day mundane, does it not have a responsibility to weigh in on the more serious issues?

    Here's Romenesko's take on it:


    And the N&R's former editor:

  2. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    If I published a newspaper, God forbid, it would have no editorial page. Opinion pieces would be opinions of the individual writer, not the paper as an institution, and there would be considerably fewer of those, too. But of course, most publishers regard the opportunity to shoot their mouths off without having their name attached as one of the big perks of newspaper ownership.
  3. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one.
  4. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    They don't call him the best color man in the business for nothing folks.
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I do know there were at least a few papers in California that chose not to weigh in on Prop. 8 in 2008.
  6. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Surprising the publisher didn't just have the "editorial board" write up the reasons why he favors the amendment. That's usually what happens.

    I hate "staff" editorials ... they should all be signed by whomever feels that way, whether it's the publisher, editor, etc.

    I remember being at a weekly chain in the Chicago burbs, just out of college. A controversial bond proposal for a new high school was on the ballot. The publisher came to a staff meeting and asked us all to give our opinion, and we were all against it. Told him most of the residents we knew were against it.

    Publisher was golfing/drinking buddies with the local school superintendent. "We" endorsed the bond issue in a "staff editorial," and it was trounced at the polls.
  7. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    thank you
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    If I owned a paper, it would run no opinion writing at all. Because it's in abundant supply everywhere else.

    But if a paper is going to run opinion every day, it's gutless to duck a major issue.
  9. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Almost calls for dueling editorial page columns and letting readers decide for themselves.
  10. Matt Stephens

    Matt Stephens Well-Known Member

    Seems like a good way to not tick either side off and save some advertising relationships.
  11. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    You, my good son, have the makings of a publisher.
  12. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    You know, this board has a pretty big tolerance for personal attacks, but there's got to be a line of decency. Nobody should ever have that said about them.
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