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Play it smart to survive small staff.

NCEW member Michael Zuzel, editorial writer for The Columbian in Vancouver, Wash., shared insights on what to do - and not to do - to survive with a small staff.

For those who missed it, and those who appreciate another pass, here are his tips.

Zuz's Top 10 ways not to survive with a small editorial page staff

10. Allow your 8-year-old to "guest edit" your page.

9. Refuse to run any letters unless they are typed, are free of all spelling errors, and make perfect sense.

8. Experiment with full-page editorial cartoons.

7. Answer your phone with the phrase, "This is liberal media scum; may I help you?"

6. Tell the publisher, "If you don't let me run that editorial comparing our biggest advertiser to Saddam Hussein, I'm outta here!"

5. Rather than bother with messy, time-consuming candidate interviews, endorse using the time-honored "paper, scissors, rock" method.

4. Live by the motto, "It can't be libel; it's opinion."

3. Three words: Martinis for lunch.

2. Before leaving for the NCEW convention, promise the boss that no one will notice when the editorial column is filled with year-old reruns.

1. Wait until inspiration hits to start writing.

10 ways to survive with a small editorial page staff

1. Write less. It's not as sacrilegious as it sounds. Writing more than one good editorial a day on a regular basis is impossible for most people. Find the provocative, relevant, local topic and do a killer job on it. Leave commentary about Sri Lanka or the telecommunication bill to your syndicated columnists.

2. Write in the morning, and do your other work in the afternoon. Or, if that's already your pattern, reverse it. A new routine can unveil unexpected efficiencies.

3. Write about what you know. Not every editorial every day has to be a heavy-lifting piece requiring hours of research about momentous world events. What has filled you with joy, rage, or sorrow in the past 24 hours? An unattended child in a running car at the convenience store on your way to work? A screw-up in your billing by the garbage company? A particularly touching episode of The Simpsons? Chances are that a lot of your readers feel the same way.

4. Rely on reporters for some of your research. That doesn't mean rewriting their stories and calling the result editorials. However, if you regularly attend routine meetings and hearings, and fill your notebook with the same facts that the news staff publishes in the paper, you may be wasting your time.

5. Use the copy desk. Especially in the era of pagination, having a copy editor to assemble your Sunday perspective cover, your daily op-ed page, even your entire opinion product can be more efficient.

6. Use clerks. They're not just typists. They can verify letters, schedule editorial board interviews, screen callers and visitors, track down stories and photos from the morgue, keep your research files in order, transcribe responses to your audio-text questions, and develop a database of op-ed contributors. Just make certain you pay them what they're worth.

7. Hire an intern. Sometimes they may seem like more trouble than help, but the early investment in training often pays off later. Besides, you owe it to young journalists to show them the right way to do things.

8. Cultivate local columnists. Good sources are nearby colleges, political and professional organizations, and businesses. Again, this may require a certain amount of hand-holding at first. After a while, however, you can develop a stable of local experts who can comment about a variety of subjects on a moment's notice.

9. Get e-mail. It's neither difficult nor expensive anymore. Encourage your readers to use it; every letter or op-ed submission you receive electronically is one fewer you must type or scan.

10. Never let your publisher forget that the editorial page is the soul of the newspaper. If he or she doubts it, point out how many letters you published last year, how many editorial crusades you've won, how you've made your community incrementally better. Familiarize the honcho with NCEW's survey of opinion page readership. (Seventy-nine percent of adult daily newspaper readers look at their editorial pages.) To the extent possible, instill in your boss the passion you have for your work.
COPYRIGHT 1995 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:small editorial page staff
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Dec 22, 1995
Words:710
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