Wick Communications

What editorials say about us

In Opinion pages on November 2, 2012 at 8:09 am

The other day I was very pleased to help out at the San Francisco Peninsula High School Journalism Boot Camp. Organizers had me down to talk about editorials.

As I composed my thoughts for that task (have you ever tried to keep 30 teenagers interested in anything for an hour?), I uprooted some long-lost newspapers in my home office. For some reason, I have a half-dozen or so newspapers from June 6, 1968.

That’s the day after Robert F. Kennedy was shot.

History buffs will know that was roughly two months after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. (I have some papers from the day after that terrible event as well). The Vietnam war was raging. It was two months before the Democratic National Convention brought violence to the streets of Chicago. RFK’s brother, John, had been in his grave for only five years.

I read parts of the editorials to the students. Some of the newspapers included heart-felt, incredibly well-written editorials and columns on the front page. I think I had their attention.

Stupid, crazed men, brandishing a fiery gun, splintering bones of a politician. This is America? … If it isn’t too late, we’ve got to stop this delusion. So long as a man can’t campaign in safety, so long as a president can’t parade, so long as a Negro can’t preach reform without suffering the sting of an assassin’s bullet, then this is America.

— Bristol Virginia-Tennessean …

As this is written, Sen. Kennedy hovers between life and death. The tragic violence visited upon him has benumbed the entire country. Ordinary Americans – men, women, small children – go about the chores of their daily lives in sadness which they cannot dispel.

— Knoxville Journal

I asked students if they had heard the old saw about newspapers providing the first draft of history. About half of them had. I told them that I thought the news stories told what happened that historic day but that the editorials told readers what people were thinking. And that may be even more interesting than that rough draft of history.

Clay

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