Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We're not mad as hell anymore

As circulation keeps falling, the debate over whether newspapers ought to maintain their long-standing tradition of presenting readers with unsigned editorials continues as publishers try to figure out what will help them survive.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently did away with unsigned editorials as a result of reader feedback, or so it says.

"What we found is they don't want us to be a newspaper with a strong point of view," Julia Wallace, the newspaper's editor-in-chief told NPR. "But what they do want is, they want balance. If we have a view to the right, they want a balance of a view to the left. And they want us to be transparent about how we go about our work."

The AJC's opinion pages are devoted to both sides of any debate, apparently with the goal of letting the reader decide what's right and what's wrong.

I'm OK with that. Perhaps it is time for newspapers to do away with the unsigned editorials, which traditionally have spoken on behalf of the newspaper and not just the writer.

In some corners, publishers believe that newspapers should not weigh in on any subject, leaving the reader to render the verdict on any number of issues.

I'm not OK with that.

Without the strong voice of the daily newspaper and without editors using their bully pulpit to improve life in their communities and watchdog those in power, I believe the democratic process is damaged.

Newspapers, of course, ought to be transparent when they offer opinions whether in signed or unsigned pieces. Would it help to know that the newspaper's corporate office weighed in on presidential endorsement? As a reader, I'd like to know the answer to that question.

Anyway, the Atlanta paper really must have missed the mark with its editorials if its readers now support a weak voice over a strong one. Or maybe a lot of Atlanta Journal-Constitution readers are public officials and government bureaucrats.


kyle@sift said...

Objective news is a delusion and it certainly won't please readers for long. Is it our duty as readers to buy the paper or just read it?

tcountyonline said...

I disagree with your comment about a "weak voice over a strong one".

Recognizing that an editor walks a fine line between the "editor as a person" and the "editor as an employee", I have a problem I see with the use of "Our Opinion". Who is "Our"? Is it the paper? Is it the editorial staff?

If the thoughts belong to one person, the editorial should be signed by that person. If the thoughts are the collective views of the editorial staff or the corporation, they should be identified as such.

I don't see signed editorials as being a "weak voice". A voice that hides behind a veil should not be viewed "strong".


M. William Cappell (aka RockHammer)