We, the staff at the newspaper business, catch a lot of “slack” from our readers for various things. Either we printed a story/letter/stinger they didn’t like, put their name in the paper for something they did, didn’t print a story they thought we should have known about, or didn’t write the story quite the way they thought we should have. That’s okay though, it all goes with the territory.
However, this column is dedicated to explaining the difference between “article,” “column and “editorial.” These three words often seem interchangeable, but in fact have three totally different meanings. Many times, someone has taken offense at an editorial opinion and complained to others, and to us, about our “biased articles” or “unfair reporting.” We have also been criticized for letters to the editor, which aren’t our opinions at all, but those of the letter’s writer.
So for better clarification…
Articles can be hard news, soft news, entertainment, features, in-depth articles, or just informative articles. Above all, we try to make sure the facts are accurate and fair. Perfection, we know, is unachievable, but it is our goal. We try to be perfect in our pursuit of accuracy. I can assure you, we do NOT maliciously manipulate facts to make a point, nor do we seek to prevent anyone’s voice from being heard. When we make an error, we do our best to reprint the article, or make a correction notice. Readers have always been invited to submit letters to the editor, or guest columns, to offer their view of any story.
Columns are the work of a single writer, usually a staff member, but it can be someone from the community that the staff has asked to write a column. Columns can be humorous, serious,
opinionated, informative…..pretty much whatever the columnist wants them to be. Columns always include the columnists’ name, photo, and title of who they are. A column is a writer’s individual work. It is not necessarily the viewpoint of the newspaper, in which it is published. It is the viewpoint of the writer. Readers should learn to understand that before reading the column.
Editorials are written and then placed on our “Viewpoints & Opinions” page. No credit/byline is given, in an editorial, because it is meant to speak for the newspaper’s editorial board. If someone other than a staff member provides an opinion piece, it generally will be labeled as a “Guest Column” and the writer’s name and photo will appear in the column head. A “Guest Column” is usually a compelling argument about a timely topic by someone in a position of expertise. The guest column is not necessarily the viewpoint of the newspaper, and falls back under the general guidelines layed out in the paragraph above about columns.
A newspaper’s Editorial/Viewpoints/Opinion pages are different than any other page in the newspaper. These are the pages where you find opinions of others (staff members and readers alike), debated issues, and also informative ideas/columns. These are the pages where we print letters to the editors and stingers. Again, the letters to the editors and stingers are not the viewpoints of this newspaper, but are the writer’s opinion. On these same pages, you can also find cartoons, games/crossword puzzles, thoughts of the week, old photos from the past, “Crazy Crooks” stories and other “fun” things.
/Viewpoints/Opinion page is where the First Amendment lives and breathes. In many countries it is forbidden to speak unkindly about the government; city, local, state, or national, or any other issue at hand. In America, we have the freedom to speak out, without fear, and debate these issues. We, the staff, have the source to do this through columns and editorials. You, the reader, have the source to do this through guest columns and letters to the editor. We welcome your opinions and viewpoints on life. That is what free press is all about – saying what we want without fear of the government.
We thank you, our readers and patrons, for your support and friendship. We welcome your letters, your thoughts, and your opinions. But, please don’t falsify our motives because you don’t understand the purpose of the piece.
Until then….. I’ll see you around the town.