Josh Bergeron: News could use some explanation
Published 6:10 pm Saturday, January 5, 2019
For longtime newspaper readers, words such as “editorial” and “column” are familiar, but they’re simply journalism jargon to others.
In the newspaper business, we shorten words like “paragraph to “graf.” A word surely foreign to those outside of the journalism sphere, the first sentence of a story often is referred to as a “lede.” However, in longer stories, the lede might stretch on for several sentences before readers arrive at the “nut graph,” another bit of jargon.
From editorials to ledes, newspapers might benefit from explaining common practices to readers as well as delineating between the kinds of items they publish. That’s particularly true when readers are increasingly turning online to read news content.
In the Salisbury Post’s print edition, you’ll generally find four kinds of content — news, sports, photography and opinion. At times, we also publish graphics in our print edition. Maps, charts and tables are frequent examples. On our opinion pages, we also publish editorial cartoons, including a regular feature in our Sunday Insight section from Mark Brincefield called “Mook’s Place.”
Our opinion pages might be a good place to start with a bit of context about the content we publish.
While we publish a single opinion page most days, the Salisbury Post doubles that count on Thursdays and Sunday in an effort to provide readers with additional viewpoints about the world that surrounds us. Readers will find opinion columns, letters to the editor, editorials and editorial cartoons on those pages.
Columns are fairly simple. Unlike news articles, columns include the opinion of the writer. Reporters occasionally write columns, but generally they do not do so about the topics or events they write news articles about. For example, a reporter would not write a news article about a person’s candidacy for elected office and, later, write a column endorsing the candidate.
At the Post, we’ll work over the next few months to add to the list of regular columns we publish, with an emphasis on state and local issues. And, at any time, readers are free to submit an opinion column about a topic. The easiest way to do so is to email firstname.lastname@example.org or myself at email@example.com.
Letters to the editor are similar to columns in that they express views of the writer. They are, however, shorter than columns. At the Post, we set a word limit of 300 for letters and limit writers to one letter per two weeks. Anyone is free to submit a letter, but we give preference to people who live in Salisbury, Rowan County or nearby communities.
The best way to submit a letter to the editor is by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Writers should include his or her phone number and address for verification purposes only. Phone numbers and addresses are not published.
Editorials are slightly different than columns or letters. Although one person may write an editorial, it reflects the opinion of the newspaper as a community institution. So, in 2016, when newspapers wrote editorials endorsing one of the two major presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — they carried a bit more weight than a column.
At the Salisbury Post and other newspapers, the opinion expressed in an editorial is the product of an “editorial board.” Members of an editorial board may include a newspaper’s publisher and editor as well as senior reporters or newsroom staffers.
At the Salisbury Post, we choose to focus an overwhelming majority of our editorials on local and state news because that’s what we’re best at. We provide mostly local and state news to our readers. So, we also provide opinions on local and state events.
There’s one final item that’s important: the Salisbury Post does not charge money to run articles, photos, columns or letters to the editor in the newspaper.
More than once, I’ve been asked how much a person would need to pay us in order for a news reporter to write a story about a particular topic. My reply is always the same: There is no charge.
If you have any questions about the Salisbury Post, email me at email@example.com. My phone number is 704-797-4248.
Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.