In journalism on April 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm
As always, the New York Times and the Washington Post and the other big boys hauled in their share of Pulitzer Prizes when they were announced on Monday. If you look at the list of winners, you will see a lot of serious 50-something white guys wearing ties and sport coats trying their best to look like award-winning journalists. But if you look closely, you will also see this guy.
His name is Art Cullen, and he just won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times in Northeastern Iowa along with his brother, John. Wife Delores is the photographer and his son, Tom, is the reporter. Think you can’t do great work with a Spartan staff and a family newspaper?
Cullen won because he has the audacity to call a spade a spade, or if you are in that part of Iowa, to call agri-business what it is.
Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America. It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. … Anyone living in Buena Vista County can see it. Even a county supervisor could, if he weren’t so afraid of agri-industry. Just drive over the Raccoon River. Someday, the politics will catch up to the people. …
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In Opinion pages on June 16, 2016 at 12:54 pm
“I was ‘had’ this week.”
That is how Argus-Observer Editor Kristi Albertson started an email to me a couple days ago. The subject was the verification of letters to the editor and the problem was that someone went to great lengths to pretend to be someone else for purposes of getting a letter to the editor into the Ontario, Ore., newspaper. Kristi writes:
A letter was emailed to me from a lady with a legitimate physical and email address. No phone number was given, and she wasn’t in the phone book, but I stalked her online and found out she was a real person. So even without the number, I ran the letter.
She came in today: She did not write the letter.
For my money, Kristi did her due diligence. The emailed letter looked legitimate – in fact, it came from the local woman’s real email address but was sent from an advocacy group. She says she has received two other letters that appeared to come with local phone numbers but turned out to be Google Voice numbers that mimic local phone extensions. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on November 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm
One of the great things about visiting other Wick newsrooms is harvesting ideas that can improve my own home newspaper. The truth is that I learn as much from the dedicated employees at our newspapers as they learn from me.
Last week, I had the pleasure of being at the Montrose Daily Press. There are many great things about the Daily Press, and one of them is a strong tradition of weighty, important, community-shaping opinion pages. The newspaper employs a well-maintained editorial board system that assures feedback and that other voices are given their due in the Daily Press. In the past it has even invited prolific letter writers in for a summit of sorts – a way to recognize the contributions and encourage more.
And the walls of the building are adorned with award-worthy photographs and some page layouts that stand the test of time. Above is one set of those layouts.
As you can see they are opinion pages, but opinion pages unlike I’ve ever seen elsewhere at our papers. They focus on a single theme – the costs of war, the history of walls separating peoples, the struggle for the vote. They aren’t intrinsically or solely local, which is a little different, but they concern issues that are crucial to our democracy. And they are filled with compelling art. (Art is a constant challenge for all opinion pages. I very much encourage you to use photographs like these to illustrate a point.) … Read the rest of this entry »
In Editorial pages on October 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm
This week, the Pew Research Center suggested that newspapers are devoting less space – in print anyway – to editorials and other opinion. The usually reliable Pew Center seems to lean mostly on anecdotal evidence of cuts at several newspapers and the drop in membership at the Association of Opinion Journalists. No one counted the number of editorials or letters or measured the space allotted. I’m not sure that counts as research.
That said, it may be that there is less space in print devoted to opinion. However, I would argue that newspapers and their attendant websites are running much, much more opinion than ever before in the form of online forum posts and comments behind stories. To suggest that professional news organizations are abdicating the responsibility to lead the discussion in their communities is just flat wrong. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm
On Thursday, several of us met by the magic of the telephone to discuss ways to engage more readers on our opinion pages. I don’t think we have any more important job as writers, photographers and editors of community news organizations. In fact, I think it is a duty that is in some ways more important than ever.
I realize that I’m running upstream a bit. Just this week, I read that the Chicago Sun-Times wouldn’t be endorsing candidates any more. The newspaper’s explanation (“We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before…”) may be true if you are talking big-city politics or national candidates, but I’m not sure you can say that in a place like Roanoke Rapids, N.C. or Montrose, Colo.
The instant gratification of commenting online has taken many of our old letter writers. And these days, fewer of us employ columnists to fill all that open real estate on opinion pages. We’re all busier than ever. Who has time to think of writing opinions when the dang scanner keeps jabbering about crime down the street and the school board is acting up again?
Fortunately, there are innovations we all use every day that can help. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm
I found something cool in the Montrose Daily Press the other day. Editor Mike Easterling and Publisher Francis Wick have been running notice about a new feature they hope to run on the newspaper’s opinion page. You can see it above.
The newspaper has gotten with key decision-makers around town and asked if they would be willing to answer questions from readers. It’s a great idea, isn’t it?
Of course, any such initiative will have it’s management challenges. Mike and Francis will have to keep those questions coming. If emails, letters and calls don’t come, Mike may have to go looking for some. I don’t know why you couldn’t ask the guy eating lunch at the next table if he had a question for the local elected officials. I don’t think that violates the spirit of the enterprise. The folks at the Daily Press will have to make sure the city fathers answer the questions promptly too.
The Daily Press has a long history of really interesting, engaging opinion pages. Remember this one? A really good local opinion page doesn’t just happen. And it doesn’t happen nearly enough. You have to plan for them and sometimes you have to solicit columns and other stuff to fill up the page.
Some random thoughts about good and bad opinion pages follow … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on June 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm
This blog post, which first appeared last week, caused quite a stir among those who write opinions for a living. Marketing man Jorg Pierach begins by writing, “If you want my opinion, it’s time for newspapers to get out of the opinion business.”
He argues, passionately if not (in my opinion) particularly persuasively, that today people have access to many authoritative opinions. Folks with particular interest in music or politics or whatever can find all the opinion they want online. He says newspapers should focus on what they do best – coverage of local news and providing analysis of things that are right in the wheelhouse. In other words, we should be concentrating on our unique value proposition.
Well, I agree with that, but I would argue that opinion on local issues is a vital part of what makes our content unique. I agree that some of our opinions are more useful than others: I’m not sure anyone needs the Half Moon Bay Review to tell them how to vote for president. But I know that very few of our readers have the time to interview each candidate for 37 elected positions in our readership area. I know I count on the local newspaper to render an opinion on candidates and issues that I don’t necessarily have the time to research myself. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on December 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm
Recently, Williston Herald Managing Editor Jacob Brooks has been helping the folks at the Wahpeton Daily News to reconsider their newswriting, packaging and other aspects of the editorial product. One of the things he noticed was that the paper could benefit from better opinion page pieces. Vibrant opinion pages are the heart of any good newspaper. I am not sure you can have a good community newspaper without local content on your editorial page. Jacob compiled a list of tips for publisher Ken Harty and his team and I asked Jacob if he would mind my reprinting them here. I think he has something in here we could all use. — Clay
I think we all use those syndicated columnists, but if I could, I’d do away with them entirely. They are good writers, but all they talk about is Washington politics, so it’s about as non-local as you can get.
I know this is hard, but try to schedule a local column to run every day. Here at the Herald, all the newsroom staff is required to write a column, which gives the Opinion Page local flavor every day.
The community can help, too. At the Bogalusa Daily News, there was a man in his 20s who was community-minded and liked to write letters to the editor. I approached him about writing a weekly column and he was all for it. I think we paid him $10 per column, and while his work needed some heavy editing at first, he got better after time… Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on June 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm
Several of us wrote rather strident editorials of late. And those of us who did heard from readers who didn’t think much of our opinions.
In Montrose, editorial writers tackled the BP mess. In Nogales, Publisher Manuel Nogales shared with readers some of the more vitriolic letters he has gotten just because the name of the newspaper is the “International” and features a Mexican as well as an American flag. Here in Half Moon Bay, I posed a bunch of questions about a landlord who fails to provide clean water to his migrant farm workers. Lord knows, I’m hearing from those who think these laborers ought to just high-tail it back to from where they came. And in Wasilla, an editorial about Sarah Palin’s new neighbor elicited response from around the country and was featured on CBS, Huffington Post and the Drudge Report… Read the rest of this entry »