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Broadcast editorialists have 'signed' for years.

To sign or not to sign editorials. Not much of an issue for those who broadcast editorials, since for them, there is no place to hide. But after writing newspaper editorials anonymously many years ago, and spending more than a few years broadcasting them, I think it is valuable to identify editorial writers with the work they do.

Sign the editorials.

First, those people in the know - public officials, academics, business and civic group leaders - generally know who writes what on the editorial pages of their newspaper. It's in the nature of their work to know who does what on editorial boards, as it is with the often-savvy PR people who work with them. The only people left to puzzle about who is who in the editorial "we" is the reader. I think we make a mistake leaving readers in the dark about who is responsible for writing editorials, when so many in leadership positions are in the know.

Yes, it makes life more complicated for the writer. Those who do this work on television realize that recognition is double-edged, and have learned to be wary when a stranger says: "Aren't you the guy . . .?"

Still, being recognized as an editorial writer does raise similar questions, as for those who toil anonymously. Yes, you still have to explain how editorial boards are composed, how they sift through issues and form an agenda, and that writers have to collaborate with someone who has the final say, someone who acts as chief editorial writer or exercises that authority as delegated by top management.

But when people know who writes the editorials, they can connect with a real, fallible, and accountable human being. By signing editorials, I think, we stand a good chance of demystifying the editorial writing function in news media.

Public disclosure. We (whoever "we" are) should be for that. Why not let your readers know what community leaders already know: Who writes what.

NCEW member Peter Kohler is director of editorial services for Cablevision Systems Corporation in Woodbury, N.Y.
COPYRIGHT 1998 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The Masthead Symposium: Signed Editorials
Author:Kohler, Peter
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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