I spotted this blog entry by media critic Al Diamon on DownEast.com (“Maine editorial writers are an endangered species,” posted Wednesday afternoon) and found it interesting for a couple of reasons. I am a former opinion page editor and columnist who has written a fair share of editorials.
And today I am writing a cover letter and preparing a resume package to be emailed to a newspaper looking for an editorial columnist. I really hope I am considered for the job, because, as I wrote in a draft of the cover letter, “Being an editorial columnist – using varied journalistic skills, broad experiences, well-timed wit, and just plain common sense to inform, entertain, and provide context and perspective – may be the very best job in journalism.”
Newspapers are going through a hard and harsh time just now. And there are plenty of things besides personnel being cut, most notably the space made available for news, features, sports and Op-Ed pages. That is very much too bad for the local communities served by newspapers.
Op-Ed pages, as much as local coverage, help make a newspaper vital and relevant to the communities they serve. Op-Ed pages help define a community and help a community define itself. Those pages – through letters to the editor, guest commentary and other submitted copy – give a voice to a whole community. It is on those pages that you find true freedom of speech.
Being an opinion page editor was perhaps the best job I have ever had and I hope that some day I will again work on those pages at a newspaper somewhere. Perhaps I will be considered for some of the openings Mr. Diamon wrote about at newspapers throughout Maine. That is, when publishers for those publications realize just how important it is to have someone at the helm of those pages.
For those who believe in free speech, of expressing your opinions and allowing others to express theirs, saving newspaper Op-Ed pages is vital. And having someone to run those pages is critical to the success of those pages and readers’ ability to voice their opinions.