Thursday, December 2, 2021
Dec. 2, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Balance a mainstay of editorials

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

Have you noticed anything different about our editorial page this week?

Gee, I sure hope not. But there is a major change. Greg Jayne, our intelligent and reliable editorial page editor, is on vacation.

We have a short bench here, so I am Greg’s backup. While the page is temporarily in my hands, let me use my opportunity to let you know how we put it together.

First of all, unlike many newspapers these days, we pride ourselves on having a daily editorial page, complete with a local opinion, local letters, an opinion column and at least one political cartoon. A newspaper’s voice is meant to drive local discussion and cause readers to think about issues. We don’t expect everyone to agree, and, in fact, purposely offer provocative opinions. Over the course of a week or month, we hope everyone finds something to agree with, something to disagree with and a lot of things to think about.

It all starts with the editorial. Our editorial board — me, Greg, Publisher Scott Campbell and Community Partnerships Director Jody Campbell — talk regularly and share the editing so that editorials reflect the board’s consensus. But in a year, Greg probably writes 340 of the editorials. I write a good chunk of the rest. Our assistant news editor, Colleen Keller, also pitches in. (You’ll read one of hers on Sunday.)

The editorials have to be written to the right length to fit our template, though the page designer can kern the type, which means to adjust the spacing slightly between the characters to get the perfect fit. I find that I tend to either write opinions that are way too long or too short, and then I have to go back and cut stuff or find some additional facts.

I’m normally not that opinionated so sometimes I have trouble thinking of topics. Because I am filling in, I don’t want to repeat or contradict what we already said or advance a weird new opinion that Greg will have to spend the next two or three years defending. So I am careful to go back and see if we have already opined on an issue and, if so, what positions we took. This time, I didn’t have much trouble finding topics, and Greg left me some ideas too.

The rest of the page comes together fairly easily. We try very hard to present a liberal political cartoon one day and a conservative cartoon the next, with an indefinite number of neutral cartoons sprinkled in. To me, choosing the cartoons is the fun part of Greg’s job. We use several cartoon services. One of the services, caglecartoons.com, lets the public see its inventory. Have a look if you want to see the sorts of cartoons we pick from.

Columnists run in a regular rotation, though that is disrupted during the holidays because, like Greg, several of them are on vacation. I try to replace like-with-like so that we have the same liberal-conservative balance.

My other big challenge this week is putting together the Sunday op-ed page. This page, generally Page C9, gets its name because it is located “opposite the editorial” page. There’s a formula here, too: We want four opinions and a cartoon that goes with one of them. We always run George Will, but after that, I just try to find three things I think are clever and reflect a variety of voices. Because national politics bore me, I will look for at least one trend or humor piece, or something international.

Be sure to check Sunday’s paper to see how Colleen and I did in Greg’s absence.

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