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A thousand words: editorials in pictures.

When Ron Dzwonkowski took over as the Free Press editorial page editor seven years ago, he made it clear to all who would listen that an editorial doesn't always have to be the traditional "here's what we think and here's what we know to support our position" structure. In fact, it doesn't have to be many words at all. And if pictures can tell a story, they can also show readers the whys and wherefores of an editorial.

Deputy nation/world editor Peter Gavrilovich was listening. So when he saw a picture of lines of people snaking through South Africa waiting for their first chance to vote, he showed it to Ron and asked why we don't do that here. Thus one of our first photo-editorials was born.

Like many good ideas, this one continued to grow. South Africa's election day wasn't America's, and we figured if it was worth doing once, it was worth doing again. On a handful of election days over the past several years, we've pulled together photos from far-flung places where people don't whine about waiting in a voting line of ten or twenty but turn out for hours or days for the privilege. (And when I say we, I mean chief copy editor Gerry Skora who finds and edits the photos and lays out the page, almost before we ask at this point.)

This presidential election, we wanted to raise the voting profile even more. So we devoted a month to a daily "Why Vote" feature--editorials, letters to the editor, op-eds, or nuggets, maybe a great quote, maybe a number, like the number of votes that separated Al Gore and George Bush in 2000, or the number of people who voted for the American Idol vs. the president. It all culminated this year on the page you see here.

Effective? One of our first "Why Vote" editorial pages was featured on Chuck Stokes "Spotlight on the News" on Detroit's WXYZ.

And it got people talking. Whether it got them to the polls, we'll never know. But we like to think it inspired a few people to cast their ballots--and not complain so much if they had to wait fifteen minutes to do so.


Welcome to The Masthead's inaugural feature celebrating innovative and offbeat approaches that attract readers and keep them interested.

On this page, the Innovations Committee will highlight at least one interesting approach from our members. It might be a page layout such as this one, an unusual writing device, or one of the audio and multimedia editorials some editorial pages are experimenting with.

For other interesting ideas, go to the NCEW website, click on "Member Services" on the top bar and then "Page Exchange."

We'd love to see what new things you're trying on your editorial pages. Send us an example with a short narrative and we'll post it on the website and consider it for The Masthead feature. (Send JPEG files for The Masthead, and/or PDF files for the NCEW website.) Please don't confine your submissions to page layouts. We're interested in anything you do that is fresh, innovative, and engages readers.

Send your submission to me at or call 206/464-2260.

--Kate Riley, The Seattle Times, Innovations Chair

Becca Rothschild is associate editor of the editorial pages of the Detroit Free Press. E-mail
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Title Annotation:SHOP TALK: Innovations
Author:Rothschild, Becca
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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