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Writing Great Editorials John Roe, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Howard Elliott, Hamilton Spectator Oct 14, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing Great Editorials John Roe, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Howard Elliott, Hamilton Spectator Oct 14, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing Great Editorials John Roe, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Howard Elliott, Hamilton Spectator Oct 14, 2009

2 Why write editorials? Editorials still matter to newspapers and their readers. Timely analysis of topical issues Insight from a group of professionals who are following the news on a daily basis They’re growing audience, in particular on-line. On-line editorials also offer the opportunity to heighten reader engagement through interactivity. Audience isn’t just about size. It’s also about who in your marketplace is following your newspaper’s position. If you’re a leader on the community agenda, your views are being read, discussed and are influencing the community’s leadership.

3 What makes a great editorial subject? Anything, really. Always look for variety and a subject that allows you to state a clear position. Political, legal and social issues are obviously naturals. No subject is really off-limits. Some areas, such as religion, can quickly become tricky. Abortion is a subject we touch rarely and with great care. If we agree editorials should stimulate thought and discussion, waxing philosophical on the great matters of life is also fair game. Have something to say. Don’t inflict a confusing, pointless editorial on your readers. Humour is great, but it can be hard to pull off successfully.

4 Record editorial (excerpt) McGuinty must keep our ER open No, Dalton McGuinty, the people of Waterloo Region will not take the advice you gave emergency room doctors -- we will not "hang in there.'' We will not remain calm, cool or collected, we will not remain patient or quiet as long as you, the premier of this province, do nothing to reverse the closure of this region's largest emergency room -- the facility at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. It is dangerous. It is intolerable. When these emergency room doors are locked at 7 a.m. tomorrow -- and barring a medical miracle they will be -- the lives of everyone in this region of more than half a million people will be at greater risk. The boy who falls off his bicycle and hits his head, the driver who strikes a post after his car blows a tire, the grandmother who suddenly realizes she can't move her arms -- all will face longer, more uncertain waits when they seek emergency help. Does someone have to die before you and your government act?

5 Record editorial (excerpt) It’s time to save our symphony For 61 years, the musicians of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony have made sounds that matter to this community, this country and the world. In live performances at home or abroad and in their many and varied recordings, their music has plumbed the depths of sorrow, trod the plains of contemplation and scaled the heights of beatific joy. They have been a conduit through which some of civilization's greatest geniuses speak to new audiences and new generations. They have taught the young and rejuvenated the old. And in so doing, they have helped us know what it is to be alive, to feel and be human. But at the end of this month, in only 26 more days, this remarkable 61-year-old tradition will fall silent unless the symphony can raise the formidable sum of $2.5 million. There are many reasons why so revered a cultural institution is staring at what could be its final curtain call. Changing tastes, an aging audience base, an inability to attract enough new and young supporters -- all these factors are part of the symphony's crisis. The lingering fallout from the controversial 2003 dismissal of a former conductor, Martin Fischer-Dieskau, has only added to the challenges confronting this exceptional group of artists.

6 Tighten rules for adoption agencies (Record excerpt) When Rick Hayhow and Susan Hayhow said they were helping the world, it appears they were also helping themselves - to a life of six-figure salaries, expensive cars and spa living. Thanks to the proceeds of their non-profit Cambridge adoption agency, they seemed to be living a grand life while pulling down combined wages of $320,000 a year. But even as they prospered personally, their Kids Link International Adoption Agency was careening into bankruptcy…. Provincial law requires that people who want to adopt overseas go through an agency. Likewise, for an agency to operate in Ontario, it must be licensed by the province. Surely, then, the province, which makes people go to an agency and gives the agency its stamp of approval has a responsibility to see that such an agency is properly run in all ways, including financial. We would argue that in the future, before approving any adoption agency, the province should examine an audited financial statement for that organization. In addition, the government should conduct a review of the adoption agencies in this province that includes a thorough investigation of how they are governed.

7 What makes a great editorial subject? Not too much earnestness and defaulting to the daily news file. Social media and the web offer up many opportunities to do a wider range of topics. Avoid reader fatigue with a steady diet of bad news. That applies to editorials, too.

8 What is the foundation of our newspaper’s beliefs? Editorial mission statement The Record states the newspaper’s essential values while stressing that it is officially non-partisan on political matters. The newspaper’s opinions are decided, on a daily basis, by the members of its editorial board: the publisher, editor-in-chief, editorial page editor and an editorial writer. Editorial positions are generally reached by consensus, the publisher has the right to intervene and state the opinion he thinks most appropriate for the newspaper. Some papers have signed editorials

9 How do we research editorials? Try to support opinions with strong, verifiable facts from a clear source. Start with your own newspaper and the articles it carries. Respond to a specific story or address themes or issues connected to a series of articles. Read published reports or judicial rulings, books and magazines Time is an issue. When possible we will attend press conferences and public meetings. Talk to people. Too often, editorialists and other commentators become isolated from the rest of the newsroom so don’t benefit from the same creative energy and thought generation.

10 How do we write the editorials? There is no formula that works in every case. This is a creative, as well as an intellectual act. State early on the newspaper’s position or the direction in which it is leaning. In general, we let readers know our stand in the first two paragraphs. That said, there are times when we hold our fire and state our view in the final line which can create some suspense for readers. Structure editorials so that they include editorial position, basic points of discussion, evidence and a strong conclusion. Look for clarity, logic and feeling. Write with style and flair. Editorials should be written directly, the tone conversational, the language accessible without being dumbed down.

11 What are the legal issues? Criticize people by name. Try to avoid insulting anyone. Be fair. Never let it become personal. Send controversial editorials to a lawyer.

12 Contact info: John Roe Howard Elliott


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