Fifty-two times a year in our editorial column the Progress puts forward an opinion on some topic that, we hope, is important to our readers. We do this to encourage readers to think about issues and ideas that are relevant to our community.
It should be noted that unsigned editorials in newspapers are called “the masthead” and are common across American journalism. Unlike columns, the masthead speaks for the paper as a whole.
In the days following each week’s editorial, as we sit down to our computers and check our daily email, often finding submissions to our letters page filled with spirited rebukes to a recent editorial.
And guess what? We like that.
That’s the point of editorial writing. In its truest sense, an editorial should be a catalyst for discussion -- not the final word in an argument.
Whenever anyone expresses an opinion there are others whose ideas contrast sharply. That’s expected and the expression of counterpoints is encouraged on our letters page. That’s what it’s all about. We don’t ever intend to be a paper where only letters we agree with are printed.
It’s our aim to publish a well-written editorial that helps readers become educated about a different point of view. From the earliest of times, thinkers like Aristotle have encouraged rhetoric that, crafted well, pose arguments that are as enlightening as they are convincing.
The great thinker himself advised debaters to focus on three things: (logos) logic, (ethos) credibility, and (pathos) empathy. A structured “argument” is not, contrary to popular belief, “fightin’ words.”
Although many of the issues we spout off about have people on all sides with passionate opinions, the object is to present a logical, persuasive bent to our readers and get them to consider other peoples’ ideas. We do this, we hope, in 600 words or less of convincing persuasion, not through beating you over the head with a stick.
Editorial musings should make us think and consider different points of view, and be better informed overall, regardless of whether we agree. The ability to “agree to disagree” is something that has been lost in today’s polarized society where political and social tensions run high. There are always two sides to every story - often more.
In our office, it’s always a point of pride when an editorial we’ve written elicits several letters the following week. It can be difficult to gauge the influence our editorials have but when people care enough to write you back, we know we’ve challenged someone’s thoughts. Clearly our writing stayed with them long after they read the words on page 2A.
Too often, the line between thoughtful analysis and banal ranting becomes lost among shouting voices. One of the reasons for a community newspaper is to let people use our paper to present their thoughts and ideas - regardless of what they may be. Everyone has an opinion, and they are entitled to that opinion and its expression. And much to the chagrin of some, we let people have their say on our letters page. It’s a place that anyone can pose their thoughts.
Editorials and their responses can alert readers to important public issues and problems, spotlight wrongdoing, and advocate for community improvements.
A well-written editorial may not change a reader’s mind on anything, but it may educate them to a different perspective they hadn’t previously considered.
Our conclusions may not be ones you share but we hope they make you reflect on the issues our community faces and reexamine the preconceived beliefs you bring to the table.
Whether we’re expressing our approval or disapproval of a city council action, or calling to attention the problems in county government, or recommending the support of a local charity group, we hope to inform our readers.