Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a public platform to tell people what you think about the momentous decisions of the day? Be careful what you ask for or you might find yourself writing daily editorials Or, more to the point, searching for momentous decisions to write about.
Just about the time I start thinking that being an opinion editor would be swell, I get to be one. This week, our opinion editor, Gary Nelson, is on vacation and the second team — that would be me — is on the field.
That means I’m reviewing letters to the editor to make sure they meet our guidelines (length, last one written, libel issues, fact errors, etc.). Then editing the ones that do for spelling and grammar — and sometimes, searching for a point. Then discussing with phone callers why their 1,800-word letter was returned. Then tracking down syndicated columns that are found variously on the wires, in emails and on the Web.
And then, ah, the intellectual moment arrives to take on the editorial. Wait, what? It’s 3:15 p.m.? Intellectual moment gone, time to step on the gas pedal. Hard.
It’s not quite as bad as it seems. There have been previous discussions with reporters, an editorial board discussion, stories to provide fodder for comment and the vast resources of the Internet to (selectively) dig through for facts. So we approach the editorials with a well-stocked arsenal of information. The trick is to sort through all that, develop an approach and write something that’s informative and, we hope, persuasive. And to do it fast.
It helps when you have good ideas. This week, there have been several, for which I’m grateful: a Hispanic war veteran, debate over a popular downtown bar, feds’ decision to ramp up “controlling” (killing) of barred owls and a Title 9 lawsuit that involves several local school districts.
A little more research and a lot more caffeine and I just might survive the week. Next week, Gary’s back and I plan to keep my opinions to myself.