In this age of fast news and life in a country full of folks who need voices to instruct them, editorialists are more important than ever.
And not just any op-ed writers, but those who use sound judgment while practicing the highest standard of investigative journalism; those who do not take for granted that others may look to them to be a voice of reason in a of chorus of societal turmoil. Those who possess such a great deal of faith in civilization as to never attempt to lead it astray with stinging rhetoric; and they who are the very essence of a newspaper. Editorial writers are indeed the voices of our communities.
The profession is thought to have begun in America on October 28, 1783. On this date, commentary by George Goodwin and Barzalai Hudson concerning actions taken by the Connecticut State Assembly appeared in an issue of the Connecticut Courante. In those days of conflict and uncertainty, newspapers were the grapevines of information. Without them, large expanses of land would have been seized by the British in 1812 hadn’t newspapers told troops and townspeople to mobilize. America’s fight for abolition and subsequent Reconstruction would have been an indubitably difficult transition without newspapers to report of victory and defeat, deterioration and development. At the dawn of the American century, newspapers kept us abreast during two world wars, the Great Depression and helped to crack the locks of Southern injustice during the Civil Rights Movement. But if the newspaper was the vehicle that drove us through history’s sharp turns, then the editorial writer was the compass on the dashboard.
Voices like Horace Greely, E.L. Godkin, Charles Dana and Joseph Pulitzer were all proprietors of public opinion and undoubtedly played a defining role in shaping our country’s modern history. Today, editorialists like the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker and the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts, all offer priceless gifts to our wayward society. While their sentiments may not always be joyously accepted, the gall and competence of these proud few cannot be denied.
It is their courage and raw genius that have coerced me into the craft of editorial writing. Like their work, my own effort to provide value judgments on certain issues is marginalized, sometimes harshly. This has never stopped me, because I know that for every person who may read my opinion and find it unfavorable, several more become dependent on my ability to reason. This is evident in the gentle smiles I receive while walking to class, or the simple, “Hey! Enjoyed your article today,” shouted from a random passerby. Even the occasional “You’re an idiot!,” comment from a disgruntled web site patron is only impetus for me to develop my craft, eventually to be free of error and folly.
As the decade charges forward, we should expect much to change in the newspaper industry. It is suspected the physical newspaper will die and the online publication will become king of the hill, which will make life much more difficult for the occasionally demonized editorialist. In a world already rife with uneducated bloggers and vloggers, society desperately needs carefully conjured commentary from rational op-ed writers. That is why, no matter what direction my career takes me, I will always stand on guard, pen in hand, to journalistically contribute to the greater good of our world.