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dani4450
06-01-2008, 01:31 AM
Hi,
I have a couple of questions (used to be about editorials but are really about columnists).
1. What background do you need to be hired to write columns?
2. Can you start your career writing columns?
3. Can you write columns only or do you usually work as a reporter as well?
4. Do people writing columns usually write them at home and e-mail them in or how does that work?

I would really appreciate help.
Thank you in advance!

Mumut
06-01-2008, 01:56 AM
I thought editorials were written by the editor of the newspaper. They reflect the newspaper's stance on certain subjects and have to follow the company's viewpoint.

StephanieFox
06-01-2008, 05:19 AM
Editorials are written by one of the editors. Columnists usually start as reporters and then work their way up until they get offered a column. That's not so true in small newspapers, though. It's easier to get to be a columnist on a small paper, even as a freelancer, if you can prove yourself.

LIVIN
06-01-2008, 11:37 AM
I wasn't going to respond to this, as I don't really apply, but I wanted to clarify a few things from the above posts, at least with regards to my experience.

My very first newspaper article was an Editorial in a University Newspaper. While I later did Reporting Articles (from a variety of sections of the paper), I began and ended with editorials - acquiring my own Editorial column name with my picture. That being said, there is typically one editorial that is "of the newspaper" if you will - as in, written by one of the editors, etc... and the topic is often discussed and such, whereas, my editorials, I would write whatever I wanted. However, this also resulted in a fair number of rejections. Additionally, I just emailed them in, just like the regular reporting articles.

johnnysannie
06-01-2008, 11:23 PM
Unsigned editorials are the "real" editorials.

Anything on the op/ed (Opinion/Editorial) page can be an editorial.

I've written a variety of newspaper columns for papers large and small. Some of my columns are billed as opinion; others on an issue of interest to a large number of readers are classed as "editorials".

It's a fine line and it would vary from one newspaper to another, one region to another, one issue to another.

As for the original questions, here the answers in my own humble experience over the last 20 years or so:


1. What background do you need to be hired to write columns?

I had a background as a writer. My first column came when I approached the editor of a newspaper. At the time, I was not long out of college and worked in radio but I pitched him a column, he told me to write a sample, and he liked it. I became a columnist with that simple beginning.
2. Can you start your career writing columns?

If you can write, I don't see why not. Unless, however, you're writing for a very large newspaper, you won't make much money or build much of a reputation with columns alone, however.
3. Can you write columns only or do you usually work as a reporter as well?

I've done it both ways; for the past decade or more, I write columns only and make the rest of my income with freelance writing


4. Do people writing columns usually write them at home and e-mail them in or how does that work?

Since the advent of the cyber age, that's how I have been doing it and it works for me.

dani4450
06-17-2008, 06:35 AM
Thank you for all your help!

Kalyke
06-17-2008, 06:44 AM
At the paper I worked for the main editorial was written by the executive editor and the publisher, more or less. The newspaper was a propaganda tool of course. The other editorials were found on line usually syndicated by leading Republican tools like George Will. Other Local Editorials were usually written by subject matter experts for instance the police chief, or a city councilman. Regular folk were published in a "bitch" area, (the public pulse) and were not paid, or professional. Some of them were downright insane.

ComicSutra
06-24-2008, 06:06 AM
Hi,
I have a couple of questions (used to be about editorials but are really about columnists).
1. What background do you need to be hired to write columns?
2. Can you start your career writing columns?
3. Can you write columns only or do you usually work as a reporter as well?
4. Do people writing columns usually write them at home and e-mail them in or how does that work?

I would really appreciate help.
Thank you in advance!

OK, first things first. There are editorial columnists, such as those who run in the op/ed and editorial sections. Then there are columnists in other parts of the paper. Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin are famous news columnists. George Will is a famous editorial columnist who is syndicated. There are also features columnists.

The background needed depends upon the type of column, the newspaper and the preferences of those doing the hiring. Ideally, you should have a background in what you're writing about, so if you're a political columnists, you should know politics. Having worked as an aide to a prominent politician might be a help. A sports columnist should know that sport. That said, in my journalism days, I saw all kinds of stuff, including a guy get the movie critic job because he schmoozed the features editor and upper management didn't want to pay the kind of money needed to lure a name movie critic from another paper. The guy previously had been book editor and told everyone he wanted to be a movie critic because it was easier to watch a movie than read a book. I'm not making this up.

A columnist like a Mike Royko (boy, am I dating myself by that reference) started out as a reporter. He would have gotten his job through a mix of flair for writing and insight. A columnist in the editorial section, like a George Will, usually becomes part of the op/ed board. Often those people were also reporters at some point but not always.

It's almost impossible to start your career as a columnist, unless, of course, you have a name from some related field. For example, the person who worked in politics for a long time might be able to parlay that into becoming a political columnist. No one straight out of college is going to become a columnist immediately unless daddy owns the newspaper and even then.

Columnists are generally columnists and stop reporting. That said, if there's a compelling reason a columnist might, say, do a movie review or such but it's rare. People become columnists to give up reporting. They rarely do both.

In today's world, a columnist might work from home at least part of the time. Your boss [editor] will influence that. One editor I used to know insisted his staff come into the office unless they had a compelling reason even though it was a headache (back then reporters shared computers so you always had someone waiting to use the machine). He liked to look out over his department and see his employees like a king looking over his subjects. Once he switched jobs and they got a new editor, more columnists and critics worked from home.

That said, you still have to come into the office now and then to pick up mail, attend meetings, talk to people. It's human nature that if they don't see you very much, you can miss out as far as internal politics go.

Our pop music critic was in the office the least because it was a million times easier for him to work from home. He also freelanced for Rolling Stone and such so his mail from the record companies was shipped straight to his house (that saved his back -- he got a LOT of mail, sample CDs, etc.) but he still came into the office at least once a week to pick up mail that came there, touch base with people, pitch stories outside of his usual concert and music reviews, etc. He was also good at coming up with story ideas that were later assigned to other reporters.

That said, you can have a columnist who is primarily syndicated and therefor works out of his or her own office or home. Often they start at a particular newspaper but then as their reputation grows, while they may still be associated with that paper, their syndication deal is more lucrative so really, they're working for the syndicate and themselves.

I hope that helps. I also hope this only posted once. I accidentally hit something and the screen refreshed.