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What NCEW members said about Jeff Jarvis.

JANE NICHOLES, Press-Register in Mobile, Alabama: Is it standard practice in blogging to release in advance what you were asked to submit to a specific publication, just to get a rise out of folks? At many a newspaper, unauthorized leaking of one's copy in advance of publication would be considered a firing offense.

Nor does Mr. Jarvis demonstrate any understanding of the purpose of the op-ed page, letters to the editor, or any other ways in which editorial pages solicit viewpoints other than that presented by the house editorial.

LANNY KELLER, The Advocate in Baton Rouge: For most of us at smaller places, the virtue of the local editorial board is obvious, We're contributing, at least in theory, insights and long-term thinking that towns desperately need and have few independent sources for.

If you're blogging about Iraq, that's one thing. But Lanny writing a blog about a local issue really doesn't have the impact that the editorial page of my local paper has.

Another point I've made before: the editorial board, the editorial "we," is something of an antidote to chain ownership. It should be able to filter through a community-oriented and longer-term perspective the views of a chain publisher who is parachuted in after a stellar service as deputy circulation director of USA Today.

A. BARTON HINKLE, Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia: The suggestion that newspapers should "join the conversation" is also hugely amusing. Long before blogs took off, newspapers were providing a forum for a continuing dialogue about the issues of the day--and gave voice to the many men and women in the street who often had no other place in which to make their voices heard. It's absolutely wonderful that the Internet has opened up another venue, and I blog myself at http://barticles.mytimes dispatch.com/. But telling newspapers to join the conversation is rather like telling the Pope he should join some kind of church.

CHRIS SIVULA, Tri-City Herald, Tri-Cities, Washington: It's perilous to dismiss Jarvis's view without giving some serious thought to what he's saying. It's clear from the online responses to his (essay) that a lot of people are confused about what we do and don't clearly see the value our pages bring to our communities. We need to find ways to help more readers understand why editorial pages remain a critical part of American life.

RICK HOLMES, The MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Massachusetts: It seems to me, asking "Who cares what newspaper editorial writers think?" is akin to asking "Who cares what bloggers think?" An editorial is just another dollop of opinion--why try to de-legitimize it? Yes, it's unsigned, as are many blogs, and most comments on blogs, but the editorial page editor and, by extension, the ownership and management of the newspaper, take responsibility for it. That bestows a limited amount of credibility on it, but it doesn't require any reader to agree or even pay attention.

As for the suggestion that editorialists make room for other voices, who do you think fills the rest of the opinion pages with letters and columns?

Editorial page editors (like me) take our responsibilities as forum facilitators as seriously as our own opinions. Most bloggers feel no obligation to make room on their sites for diverse opinions. Editorial page editors do.

For those who wish editorial writers would just go away, consider it granted. Look beyond the major metros to the small-town dailies and weeklies. They've been dropping their editorials, and their editorial pages, for the last twenty-five years. Some still carry letters to the editor, but the days when a knowledgeable respected journalist, with a long-running commitment to the community, could call the mayor or school board or county commission on the carpet for corruption or stupidity with an authority greater than a lone citizen sounding off to his e-mail list are, in most places, long past.

Editorials, editorialists, and editorial pages are already dying, early victims of the withering of the newspaper industry. Feel better?

(Editor's note: Rick's commentary on Jarvis's opinion piece first appeared on buzzmachine.com)

ROB BIGNELL, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California: An infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of word processors would come up with the exact same uninformed and ill-reasoned blog entry as Jeff Jarvis.

DOUG FLOYD, The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington: If editorial writers are undermining newspaper credibility, why is it that so many readers register their criticism by saying we should keep opinion out of the news columns and on the editorial page "where it belongs"?

MATT NEISTEIN, The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin: I think the easy dismissal of what Jarvis is saying is Exhibit A in his defense. In particular, this line should resonate with us: "Embrace new voices and viewpoints. Listen before lecturing."

I agree that we have long invited other viewpoints to our pages via letters, op-eds, etc. But we would be wise to apply the aforementioned advice to ourselves. The most important single sentence in that [essay] is this: "But today, we do not trust institutions."

Nearly every response I've seen on the listserv uses, at its core, the defense that newspapers are the institutional voice. But Jarvis is right. People don't believe in institutions anymore, newspapers or otherwise. Every six months or so, I hear about another poll where journalists rank just ahead of lawyers and just behind used-car salesmen on the trustworthiness scale.

Skepticism reigns. The corporatization of newspapers doesn't help anymore, either. Publishers are transferred around, the company touts its ownership, and readers don't identify with their papers anymore, as they're not locally owned or operated and the face of the paper has only lived there for a couple of years.

Call it cynicism or apathy in our readers, or just plain ignorance, if you're feeling particularly chipper. But you take any one of us off the editorial page with its gaudy masthead that says "Community Newspaper, est. 185-whatever," and we're just bloggers. Bloggers with journalism training and experience, but bloggers nonetheless. And since that masthead is no longer held with the esteem it once was--through our fault or others'--using it as the trump card in this discussion may only reinforce Jarvis's point that we're out of touch and elitist.

GORDON WINTERS, Lincoln Star Journal in Nebraska: I've been following this discussion with interest, but I may have to stop. I find myself agreeing with so many divergent and even contradictory views that I'm worried that my head may explode.

MARK C. MAHONEY, The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York: What this whole discussion reminds us is that we have a continued obligation to contribute to the public discourse by analyzing problems; providing sound, fair criticism; offering up possible solutions; and encouraging citizens to get involved.

As long as we do that, we won't have to worry about the threat of bloggers, and we will continue to be a valuable resource for our readers.
COPYRIGHT 2006 National Conference of Editorial Writers
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Title Annotation:National Conference of Editorial Writers
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2006
Words:1150
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