For those of us who work at the newspaper, it’s easy to forget that it isn’t always obvious to readers how things get into the paper, and who decides where things go.
First, the key thing to remember is editorial and advertising are separate departments for key, ethical reasons. An easy way to remember the difference is that anything involving money is handled by advertising, and anything that doesn’t is handled by editorial.
The sales team is responsible for obtaining advertising, which is the lifeblood for any independent newspaper. Ad reps never sell or promise editorial coverage. In return, the advertising helps local businesses to grow and thrive, making for a more vital community. Our creative department places advertisements on the page based on color locations. They try to honor advertiser requests for specific pages, but paid placement is the only guarantee.
The editorial department is composed of editors and reporters who are each responsible for their own “beats,” or coverage areas. We have reporters who cover schools, city and county governments, parks, Navy, cops and courts, ports and more. We also have reporters who write feature stories.
As an editor and publisher, my philosophy is to create a balance between the necessary breaking news and hard news with entertaining and informative feature articles.
Hard news includes those stories which cover serious crimes and government activities, which some would prefer not see the light of day. This is evidenced by community leaders who attempt to pressure the newspaper to stick to the leaders’ agenda and punish us when we don’t.
Oak Harbor is a very political community, and the pressure is greater now than I’ve ever seen it. Never have I seen the kind of threats to community journalism that I’ve seen this past year or so.
That is why advertising and the newsroom remain separate; if the advertising dollars were allowed to influence the editorial department’s coverage, then editorial independence no longer exists, and the readers’ interests are no longer well served.
The opinion page of any newspaper is considered sacred ground. Though the page is one of the most highly read, we do not accept advertising on the opinion page to avoid even an appearance of conflict of interest.
And letters to the editor aren’t published because we agree with the positions of the writer, but rather because everyone is entitled to express their views, popular or not. It facilitates a healthy public dialogue about issues that are important.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the newspaper, but it’s not necessarily the view of myself or any other editor on staff. Examples of this include political endorsements.
If it’s my thoughts, or me speaking directly to the reader — like I am with this column — it includes my name and face. My column is not necessarily the view of the newspaper as an institution.
Hopefully this takes some of the mystery out of how the newspaper works. Ever have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org