Our View: An Editorial Primer

by The Cape Cod Chronicle

Who do the editorials that appear in these pages speak for?

This is a question that has come up recently, both from readers and some of our own staff members. For transparency’s sake, here’s how it works.

The short answer, the one that most newspaper veterans would give, is that editorials are the opinion of the editorial board and the editorial page editor. At The Chronicle, the answer is a bit more complicated.

We don’t have an editorial board or editorial page editor. We have an editor and a publisher, who generally consult about each week’s editorial. The editorial staff often discusses issues that sometimes end up the subject of editorials. Ultimately, the publisher has the final say over an editorial, so an editorial can be said to be the position of the newspaper as approved by the publisher. It’s usually written by the editor (full disclosure: as is this one), but other editorial staff members take on the editorial writing duties from time to time, often depending on the subject.

Of course, no editorial is likely to reflect the opinion of every Chronicle staffer. Recently, members of our advertising staff disagreed with an editorial about the number of one-day liquor licenses issued by the Chatham Select Board for the Christmas By The Sea stroll. They were worried that their clients would hold the paper’s editorial position against them. To be clear, only the editorial department has input into editorials; we try as much as possible to honor the traditional wall between editorial and advertising, although given our size, there tend to be some doors and windows in that wall.

While some newspapers have dropped the time-honored tradition of editorials commenting on issues local, regional and national, we believe it is part of our responsibility, a way to help both readers and ourselves make sense of the news of the day. And we want to hear from you about what we write; call or email us or send a letter to the editor. To us, the most interesting part of putting out editorials is getting feedback from readers. Since it’s an opinion, there’s no right or wrong, and we especially love it when people disagree with us — that’s the sort of engagement that enriches both our pages and the community.