Inkspots: A crash course in editorials, opinions, views
by By RICK NORTON Associate Editor
May 19, 2013 | 423 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

— Steve Jobs

Chairman & CEO, Apple Inc.



Writing personal columns for a newspaper’s editorial page carries with it plenty of flexibility, and fun.

The writer can be humorous, or try to be; the writer can be serious, or hope to be; the writer can be entertaining, or pray to be; and the writer can be informative, or strive to be.

As readers of this Editorial Page are aware, a couple of months ago we debuted three new columnists right out of our newsroom: Christy Armstrong, the creator of ’Strong Thoughts; Delaney Walker, the imagination behind Rabbit Trails; and Joyanna Weber, the mind behind Joy Writing.

And lest anyone forget, our newspaper also offers a fourth budding column writer. In the Sports Section, we have Saralyn Norkus who hails from Michigan by way of Lee University. Christy, Delaney and Joyanna are also proud Flames alumni.

Their youth and fresh approach to journalism have offered a new perspective to our opinion pages in the Sunday editions, as well as on the Sports pages. Plus, folks — in seemingly every age group — enjoy looking into the minds of young people to better understand what they’re feeling and thinking, and how they’re responding to the world around them.

From everything I’m hearing, reader response to all four is overwhelmingly positive. Chances are good it’ll get even more so as these talented writers explore, and re-explore, their journeys into the future. These ladies are insightful, they’re willing to share their lives with the masses in readerland and they’re refreshingly optimistic about life. They might even like Mondays. But I can’t be sure.

We also have longtime inside columnists like William Wright, Bettie Marlowe, David Davis, Richard Roberts and Joe Cannon, as well as a variety of contributing columnists from the outside.

As mentioned above, all are funny, serious, entertaining or informative, and sometimes all four.

But this is not really about the opinion writers. It’s about the Editorial Page for which some of them write.

Lately, folks have noticed that we, on occasion, switch from our conventional “Editorial” heading to one called “Viewpoint.” Most have figured it out. Others might still be scratching their heads. So let me explain.

It’s fairly simple.

When you see the “Editorial” head, it means the opinion piece has been penned in-house. It represents this newspaper’s opinion about the issue being addressed. If it’s a government editorial, it’s our opinion. If it’s a community initiative editorial, it’s our opinion. If it’s a eulogy or an observation or a public accolade or a constructive criticism, it’s our opinion.

When you see the “Viewpoint” head, it’s a reborn feature for us. It means we are giving our traditional editorial spot to someone else who has an opinion to express. In the past, we have tried to honor these requests as guest columns. There’s really not much difference between a guest column and the new “Viewpoint,” other than their placement on the Editorial Page.

A few years ago, the Banner used the “Viewpoint” heading regularly as a mouthpiece for staff writers who wrote their own personal columns. Three years ago we got away from the practice and employed only conventional editorials.

Going forward, you’ll still see the “Editorial” heading far more than “Viewpoint.” But we’re interested in what others have to say, as are our readers. That’s why we’re re-introducing “Viewpoint,” but this time around its contributors will come from the community and not from within our newsroom.

Most recently, “Viewpoints” have been provided by Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools; Chuck Krecklow, chairman of the board at United Way of Bradley County Inc.; and Carolyn Ingram, principal at Donald P. Yates Primary School. Last week, our newspaper partnered with Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors (aka the GRAAB Coalition) to publish a series of six “Viewpoints” focused on the many components of National Prevention Week. The opinion pieces were written by Tanya Southerland, GRAAB Coalition executive director.

Other “Viewpoints” written by other authors will be forthcoming. Obviously, some community contributions will be better suited as guest columns, some as “Viewpoints.” And some are more appropriate as “Letters to the Editor.” And others, by virtue of their subject matter and readability, will not be accepted at all, as is the prerogative of any newspaper, especially with opinion pieces.

So there you have it, a crash course in Opinion Piece 101.

To review our discussion: “Editorials” are written in-house through our Editorial Board; “Viewpoints” are written by outside contributors whose views we feel are relevant to the Cleveland and Bradley County community; guest columns are penned by outside contributors with more of a personal twist or individual interpretation; and [most] personal columns are written in-house by newsroom staff.

I hope this helps.

In the world of pundits, there’s about a million jokes about opinions. Some are printable. Some are not.

So here’s my take on them: Opinions define the view, but not necessarily the viewer.

What’s that supposed to mean? Don’t ask me. I thought you knew.