Defining the Editorial
Editorials can best be understood by comparing them to other journalistic
forms and describing the function each serves.
Straight news stories report the facts without embellishment or conclusions. Interpretative reports explain the news in terms of cause and effect, adding much more in-depth coverage and analysis. Features provide human interest information.
Editorials offer opinions and views about events and their effect on people.
Types of Editorials
Whatever the definition, editorials usually serve one of three functions.They:
Inform - Many editorials are informative
Influence – The editorial tries either to convert the reader to the writer's viewpoint, or to help him crystallize thoughts on an issue.
Entertain - Editorials can provide insightful, colorful and sometimes humorous commentary.
Defining the Editorial
Writing an editorial or an opinion statement is easy. However, writing an opinion that will sway others requires thorough research on the editorial subject.
An editorial generally forces the writer to take a side.
Still, the writer must remain objective, to the degree that all sides of an issue are presented in the editorial.
The key to objectivity is research. The
editorial writer should arrive at a subjective viewpoint through objective research.
Identify examples and sources fully. Remember that the reader may not have the same background you do and may not know the same people or references.
However, too many references may bog down the reader.
While the editorial is an "opinion piece," it must be based on facts. Those facts should be easily identified. If you use facts that are not common knowledge, be sure to attribute your information.
Presenting All Sides
Include all sides of a topic to make it credible. Sometimes it will be like having an argument with yourself. If you find you lose the argument, it's a good idea to select a different topic.
Avoid topics on which you have strong views -- unless you're sure you can present a fair, unbiased appraisal of the issue.
Avoid references like "I think," "we feel," or "as I see it" in editorials. These words indicate the editorial is the opinion of one writer, and that its conclusions are not based on research.
Remember the editorial is written to support command objectives. It should be
anonymous and reflect the views of the command. When you express opinion,
be sure your logic is correct.
Conclusions must be drawn from stated facts. Your editorial's effectiveness depends on your reasoned argument.
Compile as much information as possible before writing the editorial. Read books, magazine and newspaper articles about the topic, interview
people who know a lot about the topic. You should know more about the
topic than most readers after your research is done.
You'll know the good parts of the point of view and the bad parts. You should anticipate what an opponent to the point of view will say, and address those areas in the editorial.
Personal views offering one side of a story can often add fresh understanding of an issue and encourage debate. This is especially true when the contribution can enhance the understanding and perspective of the audience.
Sometimes it is not possible to provide balance and impartiality in a single item.
It might be that a story is so one-sided that to try to offer balance and impartiality makes a mockery of the report.
In seeking impartiality, we must never assume that academics, journalists and other contributors brought in to provide balance and comment are themselves impartial.
Impartiality must be adequate and appropriate. It is not necessary to represent every argument on every occasion or to offer an equal division of time for each view.
Controversial subject might cover politics, religion, sexual practices, human relationships and financial dealings. In all cases, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight.
Some editorial titles do not indicate the subject, but tease the reader into reading the editorial to learn more about it.
The title serves as the headline for your editorial. The title should attract reader attention. It can also indicate the subject of the editorial.
The title can be constructed in normal subject-verb-object form like other headlines, unlike news headlines, it may also be in label form without a verb.
Label or descriptive --a simple phrase title giving the subject of an article
Striking statement --a brief phrase or sentence designed to provoke interest
Quote --a short, notable quotation, taken directly from the text
Parody or literary allusion --a take off on some literary work
Alliteration --a phrase or sentence with words repeating the initial sound
Question --a device used to arouse the reader's curiosity or interest
Direct address --talks directly to the reader
The lead indicates what is to come in the body of the editorial. The editorial lead is not limited to one sentence. It may consist of more than one paragraph.
Unlike the news lead, the editorial lead does not have to summarize the article, or include the important 5 W's and the H. The tone of an editorial is set by the lead.
You can build leads for editorials around any of the title types that help explain or introduce your point of view.
Writing the Lead
The lead should entice the readers much like feature leads do. Leads are usually written after the outline for the body of the story is developed.
By knowing how the editorial will be structured, you can design a lead that more effectively "grabs" or pulls the reader into the body.
The body is the meat of the editorial. It contains the support for your position. The reasons the reader should agree with the editorial are contained in the body.
The body of an editorial represents the largest amount of information.
Unlike straight news writing (important facts first and significant details in descending order) editorial writing offers the essence of the article in the body.
What not to do
• Don't trick the reader by starting with a joke and ending with a call to action
• Don't pose a problem without offering some kind of solution
• Don't attempt to change a reader's point of view or to gain
• Don’t put forward poorly researched ideas or policy
• Don’t put forward badly organized material
Your first step in developing the body is listing the main points the editorial will cover. From these points you can often develop an outline for the body.This outline guides you through the body and helps you in organizing the lead and conclusion of the editorial.
Whatever method or purpose you use,. the title, lead, body and conclusion of the editorial must flow from one to the other in logical order, with a definite purpose.
The editorial conclusion can be any combination of the three types.
In an editorial written to persuade, the conclusion wraps up and calls for action. In an editorial written to inform, the conclusion will put all the data into perspective and tie back to the main theme or issue. The entertainment editorial's conclusion might offer a humorous or insightful aspect saved just for that purpose.
You will learn from experience how to match a conclusion with editorial types.
The three conclusion types most commonly used in editorials are:
Call for action --Ask the reader to do something or not to do something. Don't confuse this type of conclusion with making demands by using expressions like "In our opinion...." or "We demand that...." Avoid the imperative voice.
Summary --Summarize your main points. You have a point to make, so
make it simple and clear.
Quotable --Leave the reader with a brief, appropriate, quotable
statement. Use quotes to support a position or for rebuttal.
There must never be any suggestion that personal, commercial, business, financial or other interests have influenced your news organization's editorial decisions.
Presenters, reporters, producers, editors, researchers and managers are all affected.
The higher someone's level of editorial responsibility, the greater the need to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.
• There may be some situations where a producer of a lifestyle programme is offered facilities to sample so that they can report on them, in such cases the following rules should apply:
Keep accurate departmental records of what has been accepted
Never guarantee any product or service will be featured
Always inform suppliers that they cannot refer to your news organization
Only give on air, online or in print credits if clearly editorially justified
Never offer suppliers any editorial influence in the programme
Do not give a preview of the item/programme.
Conflicts of Interest
• Typical conflicts of interest for journalists include:
Writing for another news organization
Public speaking/public appearances
Media public relations training
Connections to charities
Connections to campaigning organizations
Hospitality and personal benefits
Financial and business interests
Contributors sometimes try to impose conditions before agreeing to take part in interviews.
You must retain editorial control and not enter into any agreement that stops you asking the questions your audience would expect you to pose.
It is unlikely that it would ever be appropriate to broadcast or publish an interview in which the contributor sets out what s/he is prepared to be interviewed about. However, if such a case arises it must be made clear to the audience the conditions that were set in order to obtain the interview.
You should also be open to signing agreements for access to premises or to talk to staff, but you must examine the agreements closely to ensure that they do not involve the surrendering of editorial control. To do so would compromise your editorial integrity.
The same is true of indemnity forms. In all cases, if unacceptable conditions are imposed, you should withdraw from the project.You should never ask contributors to expose themselves to health and safety risks, and they must make clear in writing that they recognize and accept any risks.
The contributor must also be told that you will be making the conditions clear before and after the interview is aired. They need to understand that journalists deal with news and are not public relations consultants offering a PR platform.
In some cases, people who have already been interviewed will decide to withdraw their consent. You should consider their objections, but whether you use the material or not is an editorial decision and must be based on whether it is in the public interest to publish the material.