The Art & Craft of Editorial Writing
Too often, the only feedback editorial writers get is from nasty letters that take issue with the content -- not the style or structure -- of their work. Today, Poynter Online presents a different kind of critique. It will be familiar to editorial writers who have attended conventions of the National Conference of Editorial Writers; however, to our knowledge, it's never been done on a public website for all to see and share. So here goes.
First, we have a piece from editorial writer Fred Fiske on the importance of the editorial critique -- and why an online critique might be a useful invention.
Then, below you'll find a quick set-up for two editorials that ran in The Baltimore Sun and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a year ago. Accompanying them are expert critiques from Reese Cleghorn, professor and former dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland, as well as a former president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.
Our hope is that his critiques will spur your own thoughts -- and spur you into action, as well. We'd like other editorial writers to submit their current work via e-mail; hopefully, we can establish an occasional forum here for critique and comment.
Editorials prompted by Supreme Court cases can often be filed in the D.B.I. category -– dull but important -- which means they are largely unread. But these cases often deal with the issues that shape our daily lives, and readers deserve clear and lively statements of a newspaper's position, not ponderous prose and lugubrious reasoning.
One important issue from last term –- school vouchers -– prompted many editorials, offering editorial boards an opportunity to restate their newspaper's stance on this question. We've selected two examples that appeared in February 2002, when the court heard oral arguments in the case:
• Editorial from The Baltimore Sun & Cleghorn's critique
• Editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel & Cleghorn's critique
Sara Engram, a freelance writer and editor based in Baltimore, Md. She spent 18 years as an editor, editorial writer and columnist for editorial pages at The Baltimore News American, The Evening Sun, and The Sun.