Every now and then we step back in our editorials and try to explain why we take some of the approaches we do on this page. We hope it helps people understand a little bit about how newspapers work.
Careful readers of our editorials will notice that it’s rare that we state what we view as a problem and leave it at that. We try to offer a solution, or what we think a starting point can be. That’s by design. We don’t believe editorials should just be platforms from which to attack. They need to be more.
One of the basic questions we try to ask when we consider what subjects we should raise is “What are we adding to the conversation?” There have been times we’ve strongly considered weighing in on a subject, only to realize after a few minutes’ discussion that we’d be piling on more than contributing. That’s not something we want to do. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to make sure your editorials bring new thoughts or considerations. They can’t just be a chance to sound off on whatever the day’s debate is.
In fact, that really shouldn’t be the most common editorial. The stereotype of a newspaper editorial is a piece that goes on the attack, criticizing a person or institution in harsh terms. Sometimes that’s necessary. But those are the exception.
There are several fundamental types you’ll see on our pages and in other newspapers. Critiques certainly have their place, but who wants to listen to someone who’s complaining all the time? If you’re going to criticize, try to offer a solution.
The more common type of editorial for us is an attempt to explain an issue and offer our position on it. That’s what this is. Those editorials aim to get readers to consider things in a different way than they have before. Sometimes it’s an obscure issue that needs to be the subject of more attention. Other times it’s a different take on a well-known subject. All of those editorials rely on reason and persuasion, not attacking.
Other editorials seek to praise people or groups for their actions. We did one a little while back about the end of the spring football season and why we’re proud of area students. They’re the opposite of a critical editorial and, in a lot of cases, they’re more fun to write.
Of course, there’s always the question of why we write editorials at all. It’s a fair question. Our answer comes down to the fact we believe it’s our responsibility to do so.
Newspapers occupy an interesting space in communities. When we’re at a meeting or an event, it’s most often something that would also be open to the public. We’re there as an extension of the public, making information about events available to people who were not able to attend.
As we do that, we gather a lot of information. We’re focused on events and decisions in a way most people simply don’t have time to be. And there are times that information gives us an insight into what’s happening or what should be happening. In those cases we feel a responsibility to speak up.
At other times it’s important that people or groups be put in the spotlight so they can be recognized. It’s an effort to ensure that people who deserve a moment in the sun get it, at least to the extent we can do so.
Editorials are, ultimately, the voice of the paper. And we believe we have a responsibility to use that voice carefully, to build up the Chippewa Valley. That’s what our editorials are designed to do, even the critical ones. In those cases we’re trying to rectify a problem, and that’s why we try so hard to make sure those editorials propose a solution.
We hope that knowing why we write these editorials the way we do helps our readers gain insight into why we believe they’re worth putting in front of you every edition. Newspapers are slowly learning that they need to pull back the curtain sometimes and let people know how they operate. That’s what this editorial was aimed at.
This editorial was originally published May 13, 2021, by the Eau Claire Leader Telegram.