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Motley crew burns midnight oil crafting cliches.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Who says opinion writers aren't as boring and cliche-prone as other journalists? Not Alf Pratte, that's for sure.

Pratte, who teaches opinion writing at Brigham Young University, offers to The Masthead excerpts from a quiz he gave to his class that features dozens of cliches gathered from editorials over the years (including, we're sorry to learn, some from the NCEW exchange).

1. Who is the editorial writer?

The editorial writer is one of a select few or lucky few in the American journalism business. They are second to none, the cream of the crop, the salt of the earth. In this capacity the editorial writer may begin as a budding genius who evolves into the fraternity of seasoned observers. Never at a loss for words, he/she may become a legend in his/her own time.

2. Describe some of the physical and metaphorical characteristics of the American editorial writer.

Today's editorial writer is a far cry from his editorial ancestors of yesterday who were a motley crew and had a checkered career or past. Today's editorial writer has a heart of gold, is usually up in arms and always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needs help. Seldom do pleas from the poor fall on deaf ears when the finger of destiny points at them. Editorial writers today are always ready to dig in their heels, and armed to the teeth under a furrowed brow (as well as the sweat of their brow) go eyeball to eyeball against a worthy opponent. Editorial writers are never at a loss for words, but once in a while their words fail to express their untiring efforts.

3. When does the editorial writer go to work?

In this day and age editorial writers go to their labor of love both early and late. Most of them feel it is better late than never. Mainly, however, they leave for work at the crack of dawn or in the wee, small hours, arriving in the nick of time on a red-letter day. Occasionally, editorial writers have been known to burn the midnight oil.

4. What does the editorial writer wear to work?

Editorial writers wear many hats. Their clothing is never worse for the wear.

5. Where does the editorial writer work?

Most often editorial writers work in an ivory tower, where after many years they become a tower of strength.

During days they can be seen in their place in the sun; in the evening silhouetted against the sky. Not limited to any one geographic area, they dot the landscape, and cover a vast expanse, including the sunny South.

6. What does the editorial writer do?

Five times a week or more editorial writers arrive on the job with their tools of the trade to help create a meaningful dialogue or spirited debate and hammer out editorials for readers in all walks of life. Generally, they are busy as a bee so they don't have to reinvent the wheel, and can bring order out of chaos on many a paramount issue. Mainly, editorialists try to spotlight the needs in their community, state, or the world; bring readers up to date; and bring to a head the problems by viewing with alarm, lashing out with stinging rebukes, stern warnings, and fiery rebuttals. At the end of the day editorial writers can point with pride at their labor of love which on occasion has helped their communities to remedy the situation.

7. What do editorial writers eat for lunch?

Because editorial writers are usually hungry as a bear they take the bull by the horns and go out to dine on food for thought with bated breath. When the time comes to pay the check they are ready to foot the bill.

8. What is the process by which editorial writers write?

It goes without saying that the first thing that the writers do is conduct a thorough investigation. This is quite often the beginning of the end. But much remains to be seen. In order to be successful they have to have a wealth of information and many facts and figures at their disposal. Such a skill speaks volumes.

Following the research process, editorial writers try to write a catchy introduction even though much of their work needs no introduction.

Last but not least is the ending, which is usually a foregone conclusion. This usually follows the last analysis and after all has been said and done. That's when editorial writers put on a finishing touch.

9. What is the reaction of the public?

The reading (or listening) public, which has agreed to disagree, often has a mixed reaction to the work of editorial writers. On occasion readers approach the editorial page with tongue in cheek. At times readers turn thumbs down and subject the writers to a torrent of abuse. But many times the public provides thunderous applause to these well-loved wretches who are no longer ink-stained but beloved computer whizzes.

10. What is the salary of the editorial writer?

Now that's certainly a $64,000 question. The boss is usually not generous to a fault, but he does have to pay the piper -- not in wooden nickels but with the almighty dollar. But that's only a conservative estimate.

11. What do editorial writers do when they get home?

Editorial writers usually like to help their spouses by ironing out difficulties or making sweeping changes.

12. What do the dogs of editorial writers like to bury?

The canine pets bury bones of contention. When they are finished, the pets of editorialists usually are dog tired.

13. What do editorial writers do at the end of the day? After they have finished their rat race, rose (risen) to new heights and are sadder but wiser, they breathe a sigh of relief and retire to the simple life. But as the famous editorial writer Scarlett O'Hara once said: "I'll think of it all tomorrow . . . . After all, tomorrow is another day" . . . or something like that.

NCEW member Alf Pratte is a professor of communications at Brigham Young University.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:use of cliches in editorials
Author:Pratte, Alf
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:The Hard Way: The Odyssey of a Weekly Newspaper Editor.
Next Article:The progressive romantic.

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