If you believe it, put your name on it - Denny Scott editorial
Last week I was thumbing through the copies of other local papers we receive at The Citizen’s offices. It’s something I do every week for a variety of purposes.
First, there’s the obvious reason: I need to know what’s going on around the county. I mean, I wouldn’t be much of a journalist if I didn’t. Second, there’s always the chance that one of my colleagues at another paper had a contact or happened upon a story we at The Citizen hadn’t .
Lastly, my interest is because I started working for The Signal-Star before I came to The Citizen some 11 and a half years ago. I like to see what the Goderich newspaper (and the other papers under the former Signal-Star Publishing banner) are up to.
I flipped open one of the local papers and found an editorial that caught my attention. Editorials, according to my brief education before I started writing them, are meant to inspire thought and discourse and not make up people’s minds for them. They are different from a column, like the one you’re reading right now, in that I hope I inspire thought and discourse, but I have a defined view to share.
The editorials on the opposite page are penned by The Citizen’s editorial board, which includes Publisher Deb Sholdice (DS), Editor Shawn Loughlin (SL) and myself (JDS - I went with my full initials so no one confuses Deb and me). While we all agree on the issues and our overall stance, our own personal view is included, which is why each editorial is clearly labelled, by the above initials, so everyone knows who wrote what.
It’s important to clearly identify the authors because, if a reader has a problem with what’s written, they know exactly who to ask for when they call, though, as editorial views are agreed upon by the board, the writing reflects the views of all members of the board. As a matter of fact, with very few possible exceptions, there is a name either at the end or at the beginning of most of the news and all of the columns in the newspaper. That’s called accountability and it’s paramount in my world.
If a story is wrong, there needs to be a contact to make sure it can be made right. If a column or editorial strikes a chord or frustrates a reader, that reader needs to know who to get in touch with for praise or damnation.
And in those potential worst-case scenarios, where someone has been wronged by incorrect statements and they feel it’s damaged their standing, there needs to be accountability and responsibility on behalf of the writer so it can be made right.
So where is all this going? Well, the editorial that caught my attention was simply signed as being produced by the publishing company that printed the newspaper.
There were no initials that could be tied to the editor or reporter or publisher of the newspaper. There was no name or picture clearly showing who was behind it. All there was, in italics, was the name of the company that publishes the newspaper.
I won’t get into what newspaper it was or even what the issue was, because both of those are inconsequential when compared to the fact that, in this newspaper, there was a piece, largely driven by opinion, that wasn’t tied to whose opinion it was. My intent was to reach out to the individual who wrote it and give them an earful, however, I was left stymied by the fact that this writer hid their identity behind the company name.
When discussing the issue with Shawn, he pointed out that other organizations do the same, using The Toronto Star as an example. Sure enough, The Star, alongside many other major newspapers, attribute their editorials to their Editorial Board, however, most name the board on their website.
This particular newspaper company has a habit of putting its name instead of a writer’s name at the end of these pieces and it’s frustrating both as a journalist and as someone who reads local newspapers.
The biggest concern I have, when reading those pieces, is that the editorials are just being cultivated from other opinion pieces, regurgitating the same old opinion time and time again while not doing anything to help modern discourse. The second biggest concern is that the opinions aren’t coming from Huron County. As involved in local journalism, the amount of copy that we see being shoe-horned into our local papers from outside the area or downtown Toronto is a constant concern. That kind of coverage takes away the identity of the county that raised me and that I call home. That proved to be the case here as I found the same editorial under a Toronto newspaper banner online after the fact.
It’s important to keep accountability in mind when reading or writing any journalistic piece, but when it comes to opinion pieces, it should be mandatory to include the name of the writer.