Reader wants more information about unsigned editorials
As I have just read the Herald's editorials on Jan. 9 and 10, I find myself agreeing on some points and disagreeing on others. What really concerns me though, is that I don't know with whom I am agreeing or disagreeing.
I think it's been a couple of years now since the weekly Record-Courier instituted a new policy of signing (initialing) its editorials. I find this very refreshing. It doesn't make me agree with them more often, but it does let me know whose opinion is being stated.
Yet as I read the Herald's editorials, they are signed only as the andquot;Editorial Board.andquot; Who might that be? Is it Ms. Borgen, Mr. Furman or a combination of the two? Are any of the staff writers included? Who actually wrote the editorial? Every other author on the op/ed page is identified, from the letters to the syndicated columnists.
I have also noticed that you are very insistent on the public's right to know about local government's doings. This would seem to cry out for an openness concerning who participates in and writes your editorials.
How about it Herald? Who is behind the andquot;editorial boardandquot; and who writes each editorial?
Rick J. Rembold
You're not the only one who has questions about who writes the editorials. Since the publisher designates newspaper policy, and in this case I'm responsible for the structure of our editorial board, I'll see if I can answer your questions.
When I came on board nearly nine years ago all editorials were developed and written solely by the editor. While that practice makes it much easier to put an editorial page together, it meant the newspaper's opinion was actually just one person's opinionnot vetted or challenged by other arguments.
I appointed an editorial board to propose and argue opinions before they were printed, thinking that the diversity of the board would create a more thorough examination of topics. Usually the board consists of the publisher, the editor and two reporters, Chris Collins and Jayson Jacoby. Because we have quite diverse backgrounds, ideas and opinions, we generally have lively discussions, pro and con, on any issue. The overall goal is to craft an editorial that doesn't represent anyone's personal opinion as much as an opinion that we think reflects the best interests of Baker County and its residents.
That said, the composition of the editorial board is subject to change. If the opinion is about city government, Jayson can't opine because he covers that beat, and so his personal opinion creates a conflict of interest in maintaining impartial news coverage. Same thing with Chris and editorial opinions on the school district. Mike Ferguson sometimes subs in for Jayson or Chris on those editorial board discussions. Because of a conflict of interest, Mark no longer sits in on discussions about City Council actions or writes those editorials. (So the city editorial board is Mike, Chris and me.) I could not participate in editorial discussions of the recent City Council decision not to open the bid received from my sister and brother-in-law on city property.
So the question of who writes the editorials isn't as simple as a set of initials because the editorial isn't the writer's personal opinion anyway. Many times one of us will author an opinion, but by the time it's vetted, edited and re-written by the other members of the editorial board (whoever that might be on the topic) it doesn't resemble the original writer's work at all.
I happen to like it that way. I believe that the more information and discussion around an issue, the more likely the opinion is to be supported by good reasons. My dad told me a couple of years ago that he didn't always agree with the editorials, but he could see the reasons behind the opinions. That's what we're shooting for.
Good questions. Thanks for bringing up the subject so that we can address it.
Kari Borgen, publisher
Baker City Herald