According to Beth Hill at The Editor’s Blog, “An editor polishes and refines, he directs the focus of the story or article or movie along a particular course. He cuts out what doesn’t fit, what is nonessential to the purpose of the story. He enhances the major points, drawing attention to places where the audience should focus.”
In the newsroom, the editor is especially influential in directing what stories take top billing or which ones are below the fold or relegated to page six. The leanings of a newspaper or television station are evident by these decisions. The myth of an unbiased editor is just that—a myth.
On the editorial pages the publisher/editor may legitimately voice his/her opinion on local, national, or world affairs. But editorializing—expressing opinions within a factual news piece is unacceptable journalism.
On a recent getaway to western Colorado, we discovered a local paper that engaged in a bit of editorializing in, of all sections, the local crime blotter. A little humor always goes down well with the morning coffee.
Under the heading, Busted in the Butte, (gotta love that!) we chuckled over these entries. (Note editorial comments in italics.)
- A report was filed for a stolen license plate. Only one plate was taken, so the thief must have only needed the one.
- Follow-up was done on a suspect who had pled guilty in in a bad check case and wasn’t paying the money back as agreed. His next stop could quite possibly be in front of a judge.
Even when the writer is not editorializing, he/she has a sense of humor that goes beyond “just the facts, Maam.”
- A bike versus vehicle accident occurred near the Nordic Center. An investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, a bicyclist never “wins” in a collision with a vehicle.
- A Marshal did a welfare check via text with an overdue female whose family was concerned about her whereabouts. She responded to the text and contacted her family.
I’m still wondering if the female in question was just late coming home, or pregnant and past her due date. And don’t you love a diligent marshal who employs the latest technology rather than old-fashioned footwork to solve a crime? (That’s me editorializing.)
And my favorite:
- It was determined that a 911 hang-up with yelling in the background was not a case of domestic violence, but the case of a doggy that was in deep doo-doo because of his deep doo-doo in the house.
You know it’s a small town when these are the items that populate the crime blotter. And you have to appreciate the editor who permits this kind of editorializing. But don’t you try it.