EDITOR’S NOTE: Why some views merit an editorial, others a column

CHARLES TOWN – At a newspaper with an editorial staff of fewer than five full-time folks, most of us wear more than one hat.
Rob Smith, for instance, spends most of the week on work related to newsgathering, including organizing Community Calendar items, gathering court news and proofreading finished pages but he spends every Wednesday handling the distribution of the paper, steering the Spirit van to stores all over Jefferson County and beyond.
It’s that way with my workweek, too. Many weeks, I’ll write a story, an editorial or column for the editorial page, take photos to go with multiple assignments and draw a political cartoon or a custom illustration – plus perform the duties of an editor (coordinating coverage, editing stories, writing headlines and much more) and also increasingly as publisher.
In the newsrooms of a bigger newspaper, that workload would be spread among not just several people, but several departments of people.
Don’t misunderstand: I am not complaining here. If there’s anything certain about taking on a little of this and a little of that, it’s that a tedious 9-to-5 day at the office never happens. (On Mondays, it’s more like a 7-to-1, starting early and ending after midnight, but that’s OK, too. I like a workday that’s constantly interesting, fresh challenges always at hand.)
Many times, one type of work blends into another. An assignment may take me to the farmers market to snap some news photos and while I’m there, I’ll chat with readers and handle a subscription issue or get a story idea from a business owner. Normally, wearing many hats at once works for me just fine.
But there is an area of the Spirit that I approach as if our newspaper is much larger and more compartmentalized: Our editorial page. Though I write most of our editorials and (obviously) all of the columns that appear with my name, these are tasks that I take great care to keep separate.
An editorial is unsigned, the official opinion of the newspaper as an entity. At a bigger paper, editorials come from the paper’s editorial board, typically high-level editors, the editor-in-chief and the publisher.
Read one of our editorials and you’ll see “we believe” rather than “I believe” – this is the collective voice of the Spirit. Read a column and you’ll see “I believe” and not “we believe.”
Though I write almost all our editorials, not every view I hold becomes an editorial. I might, for instance, write a column about pulling my hair out over health insurance, but if I were to discuss the merits of Obamacare, I’d study the issue thoroughly before issuing the official Spirit stance.
For you the reader, it’s a distinction I hope you’ll appreciate. Were you to agree with an editorial or take issue with a column (or vice versa), reach me at this address: editor@spiritofjefferson.com. As always, thanks for making the Spirit part of your week.

– Robert Snyder

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