Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Dangers of Unsigned Editorials: The Tripod’s New Editorial Policy

Unsigned editorials, despite being the standard for newspapers the world over, present unique challenges to small college newspapers. They imply a consensus of thought among editors, or at least among an editorial team. At a newspaper like The Tripod, editorial positions change hands quickly, often every semester, and it is difficult to get staff members to sit down and discuss whatever a given issue is.

In the case of The Tripod, our editorials are generally written by some combination of myself and our two managing editors. At the beginning of the semester, we made efforts to assemble a team to compose staff editorials, as individual editorials are uncommon in college newspapers. We thought that trying to develop a coherent position for the paper on issues of interest, either at Trinity or the world at large, would be a worthwhile exercise of both compromise and team-building. A pronounced lack of interest in the project sent the responsibility for writing editorials back to the managing staff.

The issue with unsigned editorials written individually seems obvious; one or two people write their opinion on an issue while ostensibly speaking for the paper as a whole. Thus, if an opinion does not pass muster from those on staff, they have tacitly put their names on something that they do not support.

The position of the paper, going forward, will be to have editorials signed. If they are written by individuals, either the editor’s name or initials will appear at the bottom of the piece. Similarly, if the piece represents the views of the whole editing staff or a select group assigned a particular topic, then they will be signed “The Editors” or some descriptor indicating whose writing is appearing.

Taking responsibility for printed content is the job of any responsible news organization, however small their readership or limited their resources. The Tripod may not be The New York Times, but it is our responsibility to let our readers know whose writing they are reading. Opinions, unless they represent the full view of the staff, should be signed, so that the individuals who write them can take responsibility for their views and rhetoric.

To do anything less is to engage in cowardly journalism, or as our bellicose Commander-in-chief says, “fake news.”



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