Monday, April 19, 2021

Veteran rural Minnesota journalist encourages editorials on local issues, offers guidance for writing them

Jim Pumarlo
A recent column
from journalism consultant Jim Pumarlo, a veteran rural Minnesota journalist, applauds newspapers that take courageous stands on local issues and offers a set of principles to guide editorial writing. 

The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors' annual Golden Quill competition, which recognizes the top 12 editorials from non-dailies, "is a reminder that many newspapers – even the smallest – still wave the banner of local editorials. They are a bright note amid a disappointing landscape of more and more newspapers giving less attention to their editorial consciences," Pumarlo writes. "I have a passion for vibrant, local editorials. I believe energized, local editorials are at the foundation of energized communities."

Editorials "represent the best in community journalism," Pumarlo writes, but papers often fail to take stances on controversial local issues: "Courageous publishers and editors take those stances, regardless of potential repercussions. That does not mean advancing positions with reckless abandon. Editorials, especially those certain to generate strong reaction, should be thoroughly researched and carefully crafted."

Pumarlo offers several principles to guide editorial writing; here's a capsule summary: Think local when writing about broader issues; be consistent in your stances but be open to changing with circumstances; welcome rebuttals and don’t portray your view as “correct” or the final word on a subject; write some complimentary editorials so certain bodies aren't "always on the receiving end of an editorial rant"; and "Write with substance: Effective editorials, by definition, should leave an impression."

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