The death of the editorial

Is the common editorial worth keeping alive today? Jeff Jarvis at Media Buzz says no.

When the JACC Board of Directors last met and reviewed contests that might be eliminated from the long list of mail-in and on-the-spot/bring-in contests, one of the contests thrown on the table for discussion was editorial writing. We already have opinion writing and column writing (a collection of opinion stories by the same writer). The argument was made that most students today, indeed most commercial publications, do a weak job with editorials. I haven’t seen a real dinger from my students for a very long time. They don’t know how to come up with interesting topics and when they do, they repeat their point three to five times without hitting a homer.

Jarvis says:

In this age of open media, when every voice and viewpoint can be heard, when news is analyzed and overanalyzed, and when we certainly are not suffering a shortage of opinion, do we need editorialists? No.

There are some good followup comments on the blog site, too.

He accuses editorialists of leaching off others’ work rather than doing real work themselves (sort of like I’m doing with this blog entry).

What do you think?

Related Note: The students at the University of Illinois Daily Illini, who suspended editorials a couple of weeks ago because of repetitive errors, has resumed them with a new policy.


One response to “The death of the editorial

  1. Tom Chambers

    As Austin Powers would say, nothing could be my father from the truth.

    Jeff Jarvis is dead wrong. And editorial writing needs to remain a vital part of journalism, journalism education and JACC competitions.

    Why? Because, in stark contrast to Jarvis’ evaluation that editorialists ‘leach off others’ work’ is ridiculous. Because writing an editorial is anything but easy. Because editorials are far different from columns and blog posts.

    A good editorial —- and good just might be the operative word —- requires just as much, if not more, reporting than most news stories (as do good columns). Editorials are more than just more opinion; more than just a column without a name.

    They are developed as a collective; the mixes of views about a certain subject from more than one person or one editor —- from the editorial board, which brings more analysis and divergent views to the table than a columnist or blogger pulling stuff out of the air.

    I don’t know what kind of hack shops Jarvis has worked out of, but most of the editorial board meetings I attend end with ME, the editorial writer, asking more questions than were asked by reporters, seeking out more information and making more calls. Writing an editorial requires much more than scanning the morning’s paper and puking up an opinion based on a single story.

    They also force me to look at the subject through eyes other than my own —- through those of my boss, the editor, the managing editor, senior writers and, of course, my publisher. Those views contribute to a stronger piece, one that delves more deeply into analysis and reaches a broader audience.

    Thus the reason editorials don’t just carry my name, they carry the weight of the paper. Again, GOOD editorials require that work.

    Perhaps more important, editorials have a rich tradition in American journalism. Folks (readers) look to them to see what the editorial board thinks —- about issues in their neighborhood and issues on their ballots.

    Jarvis is following the ridiculous lead of most moronic media critics —- reading the eulogy of newspapers bit by bit. Here’s a news flash: the Internet is not going to kill newspapers. Newspapers own the net. Their sites are the only ones coming close to pulling a profit and whose market share is growing. And saying the anonymous nature of editorials don’t fit the new media age is ridiculous. We want to see folks ‘face to face?’ Is that everyone IMs and post comments?

    Editorials have a definite place in papers and on the Web. Just check out the comments left by readers under editorials on newspaper Web sites (just check out the one I write for,, especially on the illegal immigrant rental ban). We’re driving a discussion and contributing to the community by involving our readers. You’d think some media critic who consults for the New Your Times and teaches interactive journalism in New York.

    Tom (former JACC kid; KOJ; and ast. opinion editor at the North County Times).

    As a post script: really wish I didn’t have to sign up for blogger to post a comment.

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